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2013年11月13日 (水)

国家戦略特区 「看板倒れ」に終わらせるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 13, 2013
National strategy special zone plan mustn’t end up as a hollow slogan
国家戦略特区 「看板倒れ」に終わらせるな(11月12日付・読売社説)

The government has offered such a modest menu of minor deregulation measures that its plan to establish special deregulation zones would inevitably come under fire as a hollow slogan for not living up to its billing as a national strategy.

Deliberations have started in the Diet on the bill to promote deregulation in tokku special zones, a policy touted as the centerpiece of the growth strategy of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe has stressed the significance of special national strategy zones, saying that the government “will implement drastic regulatory reforms to create the world’s best environment for conducting business.”

The ruling and opposition parties must hold in-depth Diet debate on the bill.

The bill calls for establishing an advisory council that will designate the tokku zones and make decisions on basic guidelines. The panel, chaired by Abe, is expected to designate three to five areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area as special zones early next year to embark on special zone projects within fiscal 2014, which begins in April.

Projects will be worked out for each designated tokku after deregulation measures are selected from the menus prepared for six fields, including medical treatment, urban revitalization and education.

The bill’s measures include, for example, deregulating the floor area ratio to promote construction of high-rise condominiums. Another measure is expanding the acceptance of foreign doctors to improve the living environment for non-Japanese residents.

To assist projects in special zones, the government must study multilateral assistance measures, such as preferential tax treatment.

Deregulation diluted

The problem, however, is that many of the deregulations to be applied in the tokku zones have already been watered down due to resistance by government ministries and agencies.

Many deregulation measures desired by business circles, including introduction of a flexible employment system, have been shelved. Deregulation steps have been modified and scaled down successively in sectors where medical and agricultural organizations have a strong say.

This inevitably gives us the impression that the government shrank from forging ahead with deregulations that faced strong opposition.

As with delicious dishes that cannot be prepared without excellent ingredients, there would be a slim chance of establishing effective special zones even with the implementation of additional steps, like seasonings, if key deregulation measures fall short.

The advisory panel will serve as a control tower for deregulation after the special zone bill clears the Diet. Cabinet ministers who have jurisdiction over regulations subject to relaxation would be excluded, in principle, from the advisory panel. The panel would be legally authorized to demand submission of data and explanations from the government offices concerned.

We urge the prime minister to effectively utilize the advisory panel’s powers and functions to break the vested interests and the conventionally compartmentalized bu-reaucratic walls. The government will be put to the test regarding whether it can open cracks in the monolithic regulatory edifice.

Local governments and businesses have filed about 200 applications for designation of national strategy tokku zones. But only a fraction of them will be approved. The government needs to make greater deregulation efforts while listening intently to the opinions of local governments and the private sector.

Efforts must be also made to extend deregulation measures that prove effective in the special zones to other parts of the country without delay.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 12, 2013)
(2013年11月12日01時49分  読売新聞)


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