Turnout of Tourists During the Golden Week Holidays

 Tottori Prefecture enjoyed a very busy Golden Week Holiday season after a long interval this year. For example, the number of tourists visiting Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato City reached 245,000.
 The World Sand Sculpture Festival also enjoyed a large turnout during the holidays. It’s likely that the festival will attract more visitors than the target number of 200,000 people. However, there were some unfortunate eventualities that we need to reflect on, such as the shortage of parking spaces, which caused major traffic jams. With the view to enhancing the system for receiving tourists, it’s necessary for us to have thorough conferences with relevant municipalities. With regard to large-scale events in particular, it’s important to share the understanding that we should try and assure substantial measures for the resolution of such things as the parking space issue.

Countermeasures Against Swine Flu

 So far, more than 2,400 people in 24 countries have been infected with the new-type flu worldwide, and it’s reported that the WHO’s pandemic alert level will soon be raised to Phase 6. We are now closely monitoring the development.
 Preparatory measures are being steadily implemented. The Tottori Prefectural Institute of Public Health and Environmental Science has received the testing kit for the flu, and arrangements are being made for the setup of outpatient fever clinics. So I would like the residents of Tottori Prefecture to pay close attention to the relevant information without panicking.
 The new-type flu can be preventable with the same methods for regular flu, and antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza have already been secured. So there is no need to worry.

National Supplementary Budget

 In the Diet, heated discussions are being exchanged with regard to the national supplementary budget proposal. I strongly hope that they will promptly reach an agreement.
 As the prefectural administration, we will propose any possible budget items, and include as many of them as possible in the supplementary budget we present in June, so as to boost the local economy and employment in Tottori. The current budget proposal (by the national government) is very complicated to deal with to the receivers’ side, because of the establishment of multiple funds, for example. Tokyo should present the specific details of the proposed budget. Young prefectural governors, myself included, urged Tokyo to present the details as soon as possible.

Financial Burden on Local Governments for National Public Works Projects

 Tokyo has presented the breakdown of the financial burden on local governments for national public works projects in fiscal 2009, although it lacks details pertaining to us specifically. I hear that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport intends to provide additional explanations and we will appeal to Tokyo to manage the national treasury burdens more appropriately by presenting related financial statements. I will propose these thoughts to the Special Committee on Decentralization Promotion of the National Governors’ Association next week.

Closedown of JT’s Yonago Plant

 Contrary to Tottori Prefecture’s all-out efforts to edge forward with employment measures, JT (Japan Tobacco, Inc.) announced on April 30 that they will close down their plants, including one in Yonago City (in Tottori Prefecture).
 Tokyo is now saying that employment issue is the top priority of their national administration. JT is one of Japan’s statutory companies, with the majority of its stocks owned by the Finance Minister, and some of its executives are parachutists (former national government officials). However, they have decided unilaterally to close down the plants in spite of the current situation where local employment has deteriorated this severely. It’s incomprehensible. JP’s (Japan Post Service Co., Ltd.) issues have been corrected by the decisive action of Internal Affairs Minister Hatoyama. I hope Tokyo will respond accordingly to the JT issue as well.
 If you look at JT’s recent conduct, they introduced “taspo (an age verification card for tobacco buyers)”, which brought profit to JT’s affiliated companies, although small tobacco shops were forced to buy and install a new type of vending machines (for the age verification). To add to the small shops’ misery, convenience stores have enjoyed record-breaking sales (because the people who don’t have taspo tend to purchase tobacco at convenience stores instead of tobacco shops), which is a strange phenomenon. I’m dissatisfied with JT’s recent business management to a large degree.
 Instead of producing frozen foods in China, if JT utilizes their Yonago plant in order to procure local foods and offer safe food products (to consumers), we are ready to support them from the standpoint of local employment and continuation of the business.
 JT is a giant national statutory company. They should conduct operation in consideration of the current employment situation. I will go to Tokyo next week in order to raise local voices together with Governor Tasso of Iwate Prefecture to JT and so on.

Q. With regard to the issue involving JT, will you be a little more specific about the local voices?

 We are now trying to attract plants and firms to Tottori and implementing various other measures to help local smaller businesses continue their operation. These efforts are made for the protection of employment.
 On the other hand, JT, which is heavily under the influence of the national government, with its majority of stocks owned by Finance Minister, is the first to go ahead and close down its plants, which is unreasonable. It’s reported that they will increase the dividend for this 1-year period compared with the last 1-year period. In general, it’s a matter of course that dismissal of employees for the purpose of reorganization is a last resort, done only when bad business results and subsequent red figures make it unavoidable. However, while they announced their intention to increase their dividend, they decided to close down their plants, which is unreasonable. So I talked with the mayor of Yonago City and decided to convey the frank local voices to JT’s side.

Q. Will you visit JT in order to ask them to cancel the closedown of their plants?

 I would like them to freeze or cancel the closedown. It’s a matter of their business, but we will convey what we think and how we feel to them. At the very least, it’s necessary for them to outplace their employees. If they say, “We are only responsible for discharging our employees. It’s up to the local authorities to find jobs for them.” they are shortsighted and selfish.

Q. Will you visit JT with the governor of Iwate Prefecture alone?

 Yonago City’s mayor will join us. And we are making arrangements to see if Morioka City’s mayor will be able to accompany us as well.

Q. Roughly when in the next week (do you intend to pay the visit to JT)?

 It should be around Tuesday morning, according to our current arrangements.

Q. With regard to the countermeasures against the swine flu, do you intend to propose any budgetary measures in the supplementary budget to be presented in June?

 For the moment, we need to procure more masks. If a pandemic occurs in the prefecture, medical staff will need to treat the patients in person and some of the patients might come to hospitals without wearing masks. So we are trying to procure an additional supply of about 170,000 masks. We are thinking of our reserve fund (as the source of the related expenses for them). As for other necessary items, we are still in the middle of a detailed evaluation.

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