Budget for the New Fiscal Year, etc.

 The new fiscal year kicked off, the new systems were established, the national budget was approved, and the new national administration’s policies started to be implemented. While there are some welcome changes, I’d say we still need to maintain an attitude of caution. Since our prefectural budget has been compiled as a matter of course, I called for our executive staff members yesterday to swiftly implement the projects in accordance with the budget for the new fiscal year.  We have also begun running our administration under the new organizational structure. I hope to enjoy the continued advice and guidance of the prefectural residents this fiscal year, and I hope they won’t hesitate to point out any problems or inconveniences they may find. I’m determined to work toward running the administration side by side with the prefectural residents.  The situation around the national budget became clearer and clearer at the end of last fiscal year. With regard to public investment related to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the budget for the nationally sponsored projects decreased by about 6.5 billion yen. But I take it that Tokyo intended to secure the required budget amount for the San’in Expressway and the Shichiyama Bypass, which we strongly called for.  However, in regard to the seaport matters, the new projects in the Sakai Port in the western part of Tottori Prefecture are not included in the budget plan. As the top priority would be the designation of Sakai Port as one of the key ports, I think that it will be necessary to exert our efforts toward enhancement of Sakai Port as a key port.  Regarding the projects related to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, almost all that we expected were budgeted. In relation to the fishery sector, however, some projects don’t seem likely to be budgeted at present, so we will need to continue negotiations with Tokyo, and discuss the next steps with relevant parties.

School Education Subsidy

 With regard to education and welfare, the Child Allowance and the measures to make high schools tuition-free are underway. The measures toward tuition-free high schools are expected to be considerably effective and fruitful.  In this regard, I now have serious doubts about how to deal with private schools with unified lower and upper secondary school programs.  According to the enacted legislation and system, 9,900 yen per month will be provided to households with a high school student, and 19,000 yen per month to low-income households, as the school education subsidy.  However, this national system applies to high schools, but not to junior high schools. Although studying under the obligatory education system, junior high school students are not provided with national subsidies as opposed to high school students, which remains open to questions.  As a matter of course, I will point out this shortcoming in the system to Tokyo as my policy proposal. As an independent measure of Tottori Prefecture, I’m thinking of the possibility for the prefectural administration to independently provide private junior high school students with subsidies equivalent to the national ones supplied to private high school students for the time being as a tentative measure. I hope such measures will help improve the environment for child-rearing.

Prefectural Organization for the New Fiscal Year

 Yesterday saw the kick off of some new systems within our prefectural administration. The issuing counter of passports is now open until half past six PM at this government building. Regarding Kofu Town, Hino Town, and Nichinan Town in Hino County, the system was modified to allow the municipal offices to receive passport applications.  In addition, the prefectural administration and municipalities in Tottori Prefecture started basic measures in order to conduct joint projects for tax delinquency management. We are planning efforts to prepare ourselves within the framework of Tottori Prefecture toward the regional sovereignty reform.  The Head Administrator Tokatsu-kan started his work and office, and we are planning to completely renew the system of the project teams so that the teams will be more efficient and effective. For example, we should hurry up and tackle such matters as the Geopark issue, the development of environmental industries known as the green decentralization reform, and independent measures toward revitalization of eco-friendly cities.  As for the Geopark, the final decisions will be made between this spring and autumn, and the investigation team will visit Tottori as the first step. We are pressed for time in keeping to the schedule.  Therefore, we need to discuss it as an urgent project within the prefectural administration. Regarding the green decentralization reform, in addition, it’s been decided that the plant of electric cars will be established in Yonago City in western Tottori Prefecture. The plant is likely to start operating during or after July, probably by beginning research and development.  In order for the whole region to support such initiatives and share in the benefits, I think it’s necessary to urgently organize a project team.  Besides these measures, it’s a matter of course that we will implement economy and employment measures and reduce superfluous activities in the prefectural administration as soon as possible within the month. To that end, we have just started our engine at the beginning of a new fiscal year.  

Allegations Regarding the Tender for the Pinewood Nematode Control Project

 Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries conducted an investigation on the alleged wrongdoing of the forestry industry in Tottori Prefecture. The investigation is beginning to reveal the situation. If the allegations are true, it’s really regrettable.  In relation thereto, the prefectural administration started inspections of the relevant unit associations. We are now trying to grasp the situation by conducting the same type of inspections on Tottori Shinrinkumiai Rengoukai Tottori Prefectural Federation of Forest Cooperatives: as tentatively translated.  As of now, we are planning to freeze the related budget in effect and set up a conference promptly in order to discuss appropriate measures with municipalities, as well as how to settle the situation and how to handle pinewood nematode control this year.

Schedule, etc.

With the kickoff of the new fiscal year, the doctor helicopter introduced for the first time in the San’in Region will soon cover areas within Tottori Prefecture. The helicopter is based in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture, but the chief doctor of the helicopter squad is a graduate of Tottori University. So I hope and expect that he will give his attention to Tottori Prefecture in providing these medical services.  The helicopter will start test flights in Tottori Prefecture next week on April 6. I’m thinking of paying a visit to cheer on the doctor helicopter squad on April 7.  In addition, by adding the functions to embark doctors in the specification of our disaster-prevention helicopter, there will come a time when two helicopters will be mobilized for the medical service. We will continue relevant measures for enhancement of the helicopter service and collect feedback from people in various sectors in order to make the service system better and better for Tottori Prefecture.  As for the current development, the Assembled Governors for the Return of Victims of Abduction by North Korea decided today to put a request to the national government.  As of now, sanctions against North Korea are about to expire, and April 13 is the day seen as the turning point. I firmly hope that the sanctions will be maintained.  Strong leadership will be needed in Tokyo in order to solve this issue. The orthodox approach will be to keep the cards of sanctions in dealing with North Korea, which I support and expect is included in the request.  As for the schedule in this weekend, a new exhibition and experience facility will finally be open in Tottori Mukibanda Yayoi Settlement Site the day after tomorrow. In addition to welcoming visitors from schools, I think this facility will be ideally suited to promote the huge Mukibanda remains and the kingdom in the Yayoi Period all across Japan.  We will continue developing this facility as a place to offer the romance of history to guests who will visit Tottori in the Great Exchange Era.

Q. Regarding the allegation of bid-rigging related to pinewood nematode control projects, what is your perception on whether the bid-rigging actually took place or not?

 The final judgment and confirmation will be made by the Fair Trade Commission or national authorities. I realize, however, that a great deal of suspicion does exist in this case.  We should reserve our final judgment while monitoring the actions of the relevant organizations and institutions.

Q. In this regard, you said that you will hold a conference with municipalities. Do you intend to change the methods of the pest control measures?

 After the reporter’s mentioning that the attention regarding this issue is now focused on aerial spraying and that the pinpoint control on the ground is possible as an alternative measure, We are in a position to provide municipalities with financial support for pinewood nematode control, so all we ask them is to give independent-minded consideration on this issue.  Various options exist for the municipalities, including the control methods without using helicopters. Frankly, I would like to ask the municipalities about the concrete situation.  If the same kind of incident happens, the MAFF conducts similar inspections, and the issue is questioned again, we cannot fulfill our accountability. That’s why I think that we need to change our current approaches at least.  Therefore, the prefectural administration acknowledges that urgent discussions are needed.

Q. You intend to freeze the related budget. Is it anticipated that the aerial spraying project itself will be abolished in the future?

 We need to talk with municipalities at first in order to reach a conclusion, I think. There are two issues mixed up, the one about the way of concluding contracts, and the other about the methods of the pest control. We want to debate the issue with municipalities in this fiscal year and decide how to address each option regarding the two issues.

Q. This case should normally have been made public by the prefectural forestry cooperative. How do you perceive the development of this issue?

 There may be a conflict of views. If they realize in faith that there are problems, the forestry cooperative themselves should arrange external investigations or lay out the improvement plans by right within their organization at first in order to be accountable.  According to what I’ve been hearing, Tottori Prefectural Federation of Forest Cooperatives is ready to have through discussions on such investigations and improvement plans, so I think we will need to watch the development.

Q. Regarding the school education subsidy, what kind of scheme do you intend to implement in order to subsidize the students of private junior high schools?

 The national government is planning to provide 9,900 yen per month to the students and about 19,000 yen per month, the amount equivalent to twice as much as the subsidy for ordinary students to the students of low-income households. I think we should apply the same scheme for the purpose of easing the burden on the parents. I cannot help feeling that the newly enacted legislation has an institutional pitfall on this point.  This kind of relief measure applies to high school students, but not to junior high school students. In order to make the system coherent, I think it needs to be corrected.  However, just sitting around and criticizing Tokyo won’t do anything for the parents, so I think that we should consider, as the prefectural administration, implementing our independent subsidization measures for the students of private junior high schools which correspond to the newly introduced national project to subsidize private high school students for the tuition, although we hope they will be temporary measures.

Q. Roughly when do you intend to start implementing them?

 I think we should hurry up and make proposals in the prefectural assembly’s June session. I ordered the divisions in charge of this issue to speed up the deliberation.

Q. It’s possible to assume that few of the parents are low-income earners, if they can send their children to private junior high school.

 In fact, Tottori Prefecture has already implemented and applied the full-amount or half-rate tuition waiver to students of both junior high and high schools.  In reality, there are still students and parents this waiver is aimed at, and it’s probably a matter of educational rights. I think it’s a duty of a region to receive and accept the parents’ will to send their children to such schools as much as possible.

Q. What is the biggest issue in the current mayoral election of Tottori City, from your viewpoint?

 Since the economic climate is extremely austere now, many residents of Tottori City must feel uneasy about the future livelihood and employment. The issue will be how the candidates will propose policies to deal with such uneasiness.  In terms of the tide of the times, the Tottori Expressway was newly opened and I feel we are entering an era of drastic changes. It needs to be appropriately addressed (in the election) in my opinion.  In addition, as regional sovereignty reform is called for, I think that the voters desperately need someone who can establish an administrative system in which the citizens can fully participate in order to reflect their opinions in the municipal government. As various viewpoints are possible, I hope that each citizen will consult their own conscience and make a solemn judgment.

Q. Regarding the meeting with Kansai Economic Federation, you are planned to meet Chairman Inoue of Daikin Industries, Ltd on April 4. What are you going to discuss with him?

 As soon as the Tottori Expressway has been opened, he will visit Tottori as the representative of the Kansai Economic Federation. I hope to seize this opportunity and set up a system in which the Kansai Economic Federation and the business sector in Tottori Prefecture can exchange ideas on a regular basis, if possible.  I hope that the Kansai Region will take full advantage of our region as our partner. Our region can function as a gateway to the Northeast Asia. Our region is also a base of food production. In consideration of a variety of mechanical parts industries, we the Kansai Region and Tottori Prefecture are in a mutually supplementary relationship. I hope the meeting will be aimed at the development of such exchanges and cooperation.

Q. Regarding Nano-Optonics Energy, Inc, you said that they will start operation on or after April. What kind of support and at what stage are you planning to offer to them as the prefectural administration?

 If you take the example of automobile production, the know-how is necessary at first, as a matter of course, the components such as mechanical parts are also necessary, and the personnel who work in the plant is necessary, too. We are planning to provide support at each of these stages.  It’s a matter of course that we are ready to apply various subsidies and measures of our administration, including project subsidies for establishment of businesses or tax reduction or exemption for designated companies.

Q. You have one more year in office as the prefectural governor. What’s your outlook on the year?

 I want the prefectural staff members to be on the offensive during the year. As exemplified by the ship service across the Sea of Japan, restarting of the Yonago-Seoul flight service, and the manufacturing plant for electric cars, I think we’re seeing sprouts of new development finally shooting up.  However, with a view to utilizing these changes in order to establish the expressway networks, I believe that now is the time for us to be on the offensive and catch the tide for the next wave of developments.

Q. What are you personally planning to do on and after next April?

 I’m giving careful consideration to it. But first and foremost, I’m determined to serve the remaining term as the prefectural governor by devoting myself to tackling such issues as the harsh economic climate which the prefectural residents are desperately struggling against, and children’s growth which is the light of the future, and welfare.

Q. Regarding Nano-Optonics Energy, Inc, was the takeover of personnel from JT successful, in actuality? Could it be established as an employment plan?

 The relevant negotiations are also underway. From what I have heard, I believe that some former workers from JT are sure to be hired. In the final stage, the scale of the employment will likely exceed the level of one or two workers and extend into the dozens.

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