Lake Nakaumi Conference : Talk with Shimane Prefectural Governor

 Yesterday the 1st Lake Nakaumi Conference was held with the participation of Governor Mizuguchi of Shimane Prefecture, the staff members of national authorities, the mayors of 5 municipalities surrounding the Lake Nakaumi, and me. We started off toward the New Lake Nakaumi Era.  In addition, Tottori and Shimane Prefectures were designated as the venue for Japan Railways’ great tourism campaign, “San’in Destination Campaign” for fiscal 2012, when Tottori Prefecture will host “the International Manga Summit” as “Manga Kingdom Tottori”. I concurred with Governor Mizuguchi that the two prefectures in the San’in Region should form a union for promotion activities.

Promotion Conference for Green Decentralization Reform

 I was asked by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to serve as a committee member of “the Promotion Conference for Green Decentralization Reform as tentatively translated”. Tottori Prefecture is engaged in a number of projects for utilization of new natural energy resources as well as attraction of an electric car plant. I strongly hope that Tokyo will take up these efforts as their models. We of the administration are also ready to make policy proposals to the national government.

Subsidies for Children’s Medical Expenses

 We are deliberating the introduction of the highest-level subsidization in Japan for children’s medical expenses, with a view to starting it from the new fiscal year. As the draft plan, we are thinking of extending the applicable period of the subsidization for medical expense over to the date of graduation from junior high school. We will discuss this matter in detail in collaboration with municipalities.

Project for Improvement of Working Methods

 After the golden week holidays, we will implement the project titled “Smart Prefectural Government 5(Go!)5(Go!) Project” (note: the number “5” is pronounced as “go” in Japanese) aimed at improving our work methods.  With regard to the divisions where the amount of overtime work is on the constant increase, we will reflect the fact in the personnel evaluation of the managerial staff members, depending on the case. We are planning to present unique guidelines never before implemented in any other prefecture, such as limiting the time length of meetings in the prefectural administration to 1 hour in principle, and making four PM the cutoff time for the issue of new assignments.

Major Events During Golden Week Holidays

 We will enter the Golden Week Holidays with various events related to the Geopark. Our request for the port call of the cruise ship “Nippon-maru” at Tottori Port will finally be met, and Hoenya Festival will be held in Karo area in Tottori City. The festive mood is in full swing everywhere. As the Tottori Expressway has been opened, I hope that lots of people will visit and enjoy Tottori Prefecture.

Japan-Russia Governors’ Conference

 During the upcoming holiday season, I will attend the Japan-Russia Governors’ Conference as tentatively translated held in Russia, call for many Russia governors to collaborate with us for promotion of utilization of the ship service across the Sea of Japan, which has been a pending issue, and, if possible, suggest that the promotion should be included as a message in the conference’s declaration.  I’m also planning to meet Governor Darkin of Primorsky Krai in Russia, in Moscow or Vladivostok, and conclude a friendship and exchange agreement between our two regions.

Q. Will you be specific about “the Promotion Conference for Green Decentralization Reform,” to which you were invited by the MIC as a committee member?

 It will be established as an affiliated conference of the MIC for the purpose of involving every party concerned and discussing solutions at the regional level in independent and decentralizational terms on such issues as environment, hilly and mountainous areas, and regions with a large number of elderly citizens.

Q. Will you tell us about the backdrop of the project for improvement of working methods and its numerical goals in terms of overtime or any containment of personnel costs?

 One factor is the increase of overtime in numerical terms. Recently, due to various challenges including countermeasures against new-type flu and economic measures, the amount of overtime has been on the increase by about 15 percent compared with last year. We need to cut unnecessary projects and operate efficiently through selection and concentration. With an eye to reducing the overtime by half, we are planning to change the working methods across the administration after the holiday season.

Q. By halving the overtime, do you mean to also halve the related expenses? Am I right in understanding that you will start the measure in this fiscal year?

 If overtime is reduced by half, the related expenses will naturally be reduced by half, too.  The term “reduction” here is used as a kind of slogan. Although it may not be strict, we are envisioning to try and reduce the overtime by half, compared with last year.

Q. While new tasks such as the urgent projects are added up on ordinary works, you intend to reduce the overtime. Isn’t it contradictory?

 It’s possible to analyze and locate specific divisions or staff members shouldering the burden, distribute the workload across the whole organization, and eliminate superfluous activities. I don’t think it’s contradictory at all.  In the case where merely improving the cost performance does not help, we will combine the assignments of additional staff members within the organization, even in the middle of the fiscal year.

Q. The deadline of negotiations to continue use of the flight service is set for the end of April. How do you intend to collaborate with Shimane Prefecture from now on?

 Local parties are devoting themselves to encouraging use of the flight, by running campaigns to promote the flight service through giving a nickname “Yonago Kitaro Airport” to Yonago Airport, for example. Instead of making a final decision within April, we would like them (ANA) first to wait and see how effective the efforts of local parties and the use promotion campaigns will be. That’s what we have been actively urging them to do. I believe that Shimane Prefecture is also exerting their efforts from their own perspective.

Q. Recent Japanese politics is clouded with various issues such as toll-free expressways or launching of new political parties. What’s your take on the situation?

 Current Japanese politics reminds me of the situation in Britain. In the British political scene, the two-party system maintained by the Conservatives and the Labourites are threatened by the rapidly-increasing popularity of the third party, the Liberal Democrats. In the latest analysis, the three parties are almost equally competitive. The political model designed to solve every problem within the framework of the two-party system is starting to come under scrutiny in other parts of the world.  The point is how the national public’s sentiment could be absorbed at the political level. We expect to go through trial and error in Japan, too.  Several issues are highlighted now. The nucleus of the national government should present their policies based on their firm leadership and try to solve them promptly.

Q. Will the Japan-Russia Governors’ Conference be held in Moscow?

 Yes, it will. About 10 Japanese prefectural governors are planning to attend. From the Russian side, the mayor of Moscow, the governors of major provinces, and, in particular, almost all the governors of the Far-East regions are going to attend as well. That indicates that the relevant parties in the Far-East have a high expectation for and a great deal of interest in the Japan-Russia Governors’ Conference.

Q. In the conference, what topics do you expect to discuss with Governor Darkin or the governors of the surrounding regions?

 After the reporter’s predicting that one of the items in the conference’s agenda would be how to attract and increase passengers and cargo for the international regular ship service, With the onset of the APEC (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), which will be convoked in Vladivostok, the world economy will concentrate more on Asian powers, and some portions of the flow of goods and people will circulate by way of the Far-East, I think. In order to ensure the benefits and prosperity of each region, I will call for the promotion of the ship service across the Sea of Japan.

Q. DBS Cruise Ferry announced their operational results for the past 10 months. Do you think they are still going strong? Or are you planning any measures to rectify any problems in the future?

 They attracted a higher number of passengers than had been initially anticipated. Although the operation was sluggish in winter, it’s on its way to recovery now. Considering the operational results of the route between Russia and Tonghae in South Korea, I imagine that they are seeing a certain degree of good prospects as a shipping company. As for the results in Japan, however, there is still room for the attraction of more passengers. There still remain challenges to be addressed.  The major theme will be how to encourage utilization of this ship service for commodity distribution. Although this ship service has been launched amid a considerably adverse economic climate, it is starting to be utilized for multiple purposes.  Chopsticks are one of the examples. It’s necessary to continue collecting more and more cargo of goods which are imported regularly. The Japan-Russia Governors’ Conference is a golden opportunity to ask Russia for cooperation.

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