Meeting of National Governors’ Association

 Yesterday I went to Tokyo for the meeting of the National Governors’ Association. A number of opinions were exchanged on various issues. Regarding the new lump-sum subsidies deliberated by the national government, I strongly suggested that we should exert concrete efforts to secure the total amount so that the subsidies will not become a second of the Trinity Reform advocated by the Koizumi administration.  The National Governors’ Association will be involved in construction of this framework, and I’m likely to take part in the policy-making process. The matter of financial resources is anticipated to be highlighted as a crucial issue.  The national government is planning to create a mid-term financial framework for the whole country, and they need to implement new projects despite the lack of funds, although they are hesitant to propose tax increases. Under the circumstances, I emphasized the need to take care in dealing with this issue so that the regional side will not be forced to pay the price and the national government will not use the grant money replacement with the lump-sum subsidies simply as an excuse to reduce the total amount.

Governors’ Network to Change Japan by Independence and Decentration

 Yesterday I also attended “the Governors’ Network for Hometowns to Change Japan by Independence and Decentration as tentatively translated”. Through the introduction of Shimane’s Governor Mizoguchi, I joined the network composed of 11 prefectural governors in total, including the governors of Fukui and Nagano Prefectures.  I seized this opportunity to make clear the necessity of first decentralizing the industries on the basis that regional independence and decentration is impossible without a sufficient employment base.  We have begun laying the groundwork for proposals we will make to Tokyo or toward society.

Participation in Research Council of Platinum Society

 Based on “the concept of platinum society” advocated by Chairman Komiyama of Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc., a former president of the University of Tokyo, the decision to launch the Research Council of Platinum Society as tentatively translated has been finalized. The opening ceremony will be held within the month, and agreement has been reached for Tottori Prefecture to join this research council.  I exchanged ideas with Chairman Komiyama the other day. Our talk reflected our view that we are entering an era when Japan’s cutting-edge technologies utilized to challenge and overcome social issues including the environment and an aging population will lead to industrial vitalization, social security, affluence, employment, and other benefits.  Tottori Prefecture is determined to lead in this direction, so we are willing to take part in “the concept of platinum society”. This initiative will probably gain the participation of several local autonomies, and companies interested in related technology development and subsequent industrial promotion.  Through participation in “the Governors’ Network for Hometowns to Change Japan by Independence and Decentration” and “the concept of platinum society”, we will try and create a vivid image for the future of Tottori Prefecture.

Unofficial Announcement on Investigation Expenses for Port and Harbor Projects

 In the unofficial announcement on port and harbor projects by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a budget amounting to 5 million yen was allocated for the investigation expenses to the international ferry terminal in Takenouchi Minami area and the multi-purpose international terminal in Nakano area, respectively. It will be considerably effective for the vitalization of Sakai Port, the ship service across the Sea of Japan, and the cargo transport system.  We have long awaited the use of the international ferry terminal in Takenouchi Minami area as the berthing pier for DBS Cruise Ferry, so this is extremely good news. Nakano area will also be enhanced as a highly-functional pier for multiple purposes, which I think will accelerate development of Sakai Port as an international port to a large extent.  These options are still under investigation, and actual commencement of construction would require the designation of Sakai Port as a key port, so we will concentrate our efforts toward this designation.

Yonago-Nagoya Flight Service of All Nippon Airways

 One of our urgent issues in transportation is the flight service between Yanago and Nagoya. Since the end of last fiscal year, when ANA informed us of the possibility that the flight service may be abolished, we have been engaged in a number of request activities.  We were just about to start implementing a variety of campaigns targeted at potential users including business people in order to improve the seat occupancy rate of the flight service, so ANA’s intention is indeed regrettable. Although the situation is quite severe, we are in agreement with Aichi Prefecture to make joint requests, and we are planning to visit ANA’s head office together on April 9.

Doctor Helicopters

 At the end of last fiscal year, we concluded an official agreement with Hyogo and Kyoto Prefectures. As a collaboration project of Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tottori Prefectures, the operation of the doctor helicopter will finally be realized for the first time in the areas along the Sea of Japan. We will start the operation anyway and make necessary improvements later. If the weather permits, I will go and see the drill scheduled for today and offer our support to the helicopter squad.   Because of the horizontally elongated shape of our prefecture, we are working on enhancement of our disaster-prevention helicopter in order to have doctors on board. We are also planning to hold a drill in a tie-up with Tottori University on April 14.

Q. The investigation expenses were allocated to the terminals in relation to port and harbor projects this time. Does it mean that the constructions are likely to commence on or after next fiscal year?

 There are more than 100 important ports stipulated in related laws nationwide, and Tokyo intends to narrow them down to about 40, as their policy is aimed at selection and concentration. Although the allocation of investigation expenses this time is a welcoming fact, actual commencement of the constructions depends on the investigation results. As far as we see, the point is whether Tokyo will select Sakai as a key port.

Q. Roughly when will the key ports be selected?

 The selection process is expected to shift into high gear soon and continue into summer, and we have been engaged in request activities since last fiscal year with a view to the designation (of Sakai Port) as a key port. We will strengthen our appeals to Tokyo.

Q. Are there any size or other requirements for key ports?

 It will be how important the port is in strategic terms. As for the advantages of Sakai Port, the largest amount of pulp and paper is traded in the port among other ports in Japan, and Sakai functions as the base of a unique ship service of DBS Cruise Ferry like no other region. I’m sorry to say, however, that in terms of the absolute quantity of cargo, Sakai Port does not rise in prominence nationwide. In order (for Sakai) to be approved as a key port, we will need to make a convincing case in our appeal to Tokyo.

Q. If the area (around Sakai Port) was designated as a special economic zone, Sakai Port might be seen as a potential key port.

 Although I’m eager to consider the concept of a special administrative zone as a necessary support measure, we haven’t received any offer of that sort from Tokyo. We will urge the national government to implement measures for enhanced user-friendliness within the port, including deregulation in the form of (the designation of) a special zone.

Q. Regarding the flight service between Yonago and Nagoya, you said that ANA informed you of the likelihood of termination of the service. Is the situation pressing?

 ANA’s side maintains a very severe perspective on this issue. Development of the related negotiations is still unpredictable. Although the seat occupancy rate rose to about 56 percent in the March period, which indicates an increasing trend, it remains doubtful if the increase rate has reached the level ANA’s side requires. I feel we are facing very strong unfavorable winds.

Q. You said just now that the deadline is the end of April. Did you refer to dialogues, and not to negotiations, with ANA’s side?

 In accordance with the stipulations of Civil Aeronautics Act, the announcement needs to be made at the end of April in order to change their timetable in October to the winter version. ANA has to make the final decision pretty soon.

Q. What is the specific content of the concept of platinum society? Is it related to the economic growth strategy?

 We are envisioning empirical experiments at the regional level with the participation of local autonomies and companies. Considering the establishment of the electric automobile plant or lots of wind-power generation systems installed in our region, we can put the Smart Grid in our perspective, and we are expecting Tottori Prefecture to become an effective and useful field for the empirical researches.  This is an initiative to create a social model. We will try and establish tie-ups with supportive companies and create industries suitable for the new century. Issues such as the aging population and eco-friendly policies are among the themes that Tottori Prefecture needs to tackle, and that’s why we expressed our agreement with the concept of platinum society this time.  It coincides with the growth strategy of Tottori Prefecture, as exemplified by such things as the creation of environmental energy industries, the increase of social services, and the expansion of employment bases in welfare-related services.

Q. Regarding the National Governors’ Association’s stance toward future Upper House elections, am I right in understanding that the decision is not the result of the association’s reflection on last year’s (Lower House election)?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the governors’ association decided not to score the manifestos of each political party in the future, and questioning if the association perceived anything inappropriate about the numerical evaluation of the manifestos itself,) That’s right, as far as I know. The last Lower House election was the crucial point in terms of whether a change of government would happen or not, and it was considerably meaningful for us to urge each political party to include decentralization in their manifestos. This time, however, it may not be necessary to make grandiose preparations and conduct large-scale measures such as scoring.  Having said that, we reached an agreement in the association’s meeting yesterday that we should convey our requests to each party and ask them to reflect the requests in their manifestos.

Q. Do you intend to go ahead with preparations for the prefecture’s independent school education subsidies for students at private junior high schools?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that only a few opinions have been presented to the prefectural government from prefectural residents and that all of them are against the subsidies,) We will make sufficient adjustments toward establishment of the system with relevant parties, including those involved with private junior high schools. Making requests to Tokyo is a given. But the students will suffer the crunch if this issue is left unaddressed, so we think that the prefecture should deliberate some independent countermeasures.

Q. You announced your intention in last January to establish a public school with unified lower and upper secondary school program. Is it related to this issue?

 Not directly.

Q. Is it necessary to use tax money in order to subsidize students who dare and choose to go to private school and pay for the tuition?

 The traditional system will be modified, and all the public elementary, junior high, and high schools will be tuition-free.  In keeping with that, Tokyo considered subsidization for students of private high schools. But I feel that their consideration for students at private elementary or junior high schools remains open to the question, although there are no private elementary schools in Tottori Prefecture.

Q. Do you plan to impose income limitations?

 Previously, it might have been logically possible to say, “Is it necessary to subsidize those who choose to go to private school instead of going to public junior high school, which is free of tuition?” At present, however, public high schools will also be tuition-free and the subsidies will be applicable to students who go to private high schools. So I think that we should discuss the subsidization for private junior high school students on the same level.  I also doubt that we should separate junior high and high schools in this regard, since they are all schools. Traditionally, Tottori Prefecture has provided the same level of school education subsidies for students of private junior high and high schools. But now the national subsidization for private school students will apply only to the students of high school. It remains open to question whether it’s permissible to leave this issue unaddressed.

Q. While there are only 2 (private) schools with unified lower and upper secondary school program in Tottori Prefecture, there are quite a few private schools in urban areas. Won’t it be a disadvantage, when you make relevant requests to Tokyo?

 It will. But if the subsidization is made applicable to students of all high schools, it should be possible to make it also applicable to students of all junior high schools in the system planning. Tottori Prefecture has traditionally constructed a uniform system of subsidization for students of both junior high and high schools to a certain degree. So, frankly speaking, it won’t turn out very well, if the condition remains as it is.

Q. Besides the viewpoint of economic compensation, do you intend to promote unified lower and upper secondary school education and make it take root in Tottori Prefecture?

 Diversity of education is necessary. Since private schools are devoting themselves to providing the options of schools with unified lower and upper secondary school program in central and western parts of Tottori Prefecture, I believe that we should provide them with the support they deserve. In fact, the circumstances which surround private school management are extremely severe. Together with the declining number of children, this issue is recognized as a national problem. In particular, if only private junior high schools are left behind unattended, there is an increasing probability of widening the disparity between public and private educations in fact. That’s why we need to correct this problem.  In order to secure the diversity of education, I think it’s necessary to provide support to private schools.

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