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2014年7月 8日 (火)

中枢拠点都市 「地方創生」へ戦略が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
‘Regional pivotal city’ idea must lead to reinvigoration of local economies
中枢拠点都市 「地方創生」へ戦略が問われる

The rapid shrinking of the population, the graying of society and the widening economic disparity between big cities and other regions of the country have been progressing alarmingly. Many municipalities are facing the daunting challenge of what must be done to revitalize local economies and maintain the quality of administrative services for their residents.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is set to designate “regional pivotal municipalities” from among the country’s 61 cities with a population of 200,000 or more, with the exception of those in the nation’s three major metropolitan areas, including Tokyo. It aims to launch a system in which the designated cities will act as a driving force for economic growth in the respective regions.

The envisioned midsize regional pivotal cities are to enter into “cooperative pacts” with cities, towns and villages surrounding them on the basis of the Local Government Law, which was revised in May. They are expected to allocate roles among the entities involved and mutually decide on a direction for bringing about the rebirth of the localities. The municipalities are to work out regional versions of the nationwide growth strategy comprising a range of programs, including those for the promotion of local industries and tourism.

The central government will provide each regional pivotal city with hundreds of millions of yen in additional local tax grants each year. Pilot projects under this concept are scheduled to be implemented in nine cities this fiscal year, prior to full-scale implementation from fiscal 2015.

The local growth strategies should adequately reflect local characteristics and the area’s current situations. It is essential for the municipalities to make the best possible use of private-sector ideas and vitality through discussions with local businesses, universities and others about what the future of the regions should be.

Japan’s population has been shrinking since it peaked at about 128 million in 2008, and is projected to fall below 100 million in 2048. The aging rate of the population—the percentage of people aged 65 or older out of the country’s total population—is forecast to reach 40 percent in 2050, compared to 20 percent in 2004.

Population declines in areas outside big cities are especially serious. It will certainly become difficult for each municipality to maintain various public facilities and provide wide-ranging administrative services all by itself.

Follow good examples

The blueprint of the scheme calls for integration of high-level urban functions into the regional pivotal cities. Surrounding municipalities are supposed to share roles in such fields as industrial production and medical services, in a way conducive to maintaining the quality of livelihoods of local residents. These objectives are quite understandable.

The realignment of aging public facilities is important in this connection, to ensure their optimum reallocation in the integrated municipalities in a way well suited to desires of their users, instead of simply rebuilding them in the same places as they are currently located.

The city of Fukuoka has been proceeding actively with projects to attract international conferences and exhibitions, forging ahead to promote tourism and restaurant businesses in tandem with surrounding local governments. In another example, the municipal government of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has developed an endoscope in collaboration with a local medical university and small and midsize businesses.

The city government of Kumamoto has been working on a project aimed at turning the farming sector of the city and its environs into what is known as the “sixth industry,” by having local companies process farming products in the region and seeking to spread their marketing routes nationwide.

Other municipalities are well-advised to exercise wisdom in fleshing out their own industrial promotion measures by referring to these good examples.

Besides the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, government offices including the secretariat of the Cabinet Office; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry; and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have separately appropriated budgets for regional revitalization purposes and worked to establish necessary legislation. This a typical example of vertically segmented bureaucratic administration devoid of coordination.

The government will soon set up a “regional reinvigoration promotion headquarters” headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. All ministries concerned must take this opportunity to coordinate more closely with each other to adjust and consolidate their efforts to ensure the government policy produces synergistic effects.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2014)


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