Looking Back on the year 2008

 This past year seemed like the prelude to a storm. What I mean by “storm” is political confrontation as a social condition, economic turbulence and so on. Insofar as I bear responsibility for the prefectural administration, I could pave the way for the future ahead of us.
 Today, we drew up our future vision based on various opinions from residents of Tottori Prefecture. The slogan is “Let’s build a Vital and Safe Tottori Prefecture.”
 The issue of the national academic achievement test, which became a hot topic, has reached a certain settlement by amendment of the relevant ordinance in the prefectural assembly’s November session. Now it’s probable that the relevant procedures and measures, and participation of municipalities will be on the table for discussion. We will draft the relevant ordinances separately, according to which we will take proper measures.
 In addition to that, the efforts to open the door to the Great Exchange Era have gained a huge momentum this year. With the realization of the expressway network in mind, we have done our best to explain to the national government about issues such as Tottori Prefecture’s mid-term road construction plan. However, the issue of the road-related tax revenues suddenly popped up just as we were beginning to feel positive about the outcome of the negotiation. However, as it’s getting clearer in the year-end budget negotiations, our efforts are starting to bear fruit with regard to the Tottori Expressway. What I’m worried about is the San-in Expressway. Under the current circumstances with nationally sponsored projects being downsized, it’s getting less and less clear if the said construction will be completed. I really hope that the areas where the expressway constructions are delayed will take priority in budget allocations.
 Yonago-Seoul flight services have managed to continue operation for the past year, thanks to the enormous support of the residents of the San-in Region. We could see a concrete progress in the project to lengthen the runway of Yonago Airport and it was decided that the Yonago Airport Station will be set up in the Sakai Line of the Japan Railway. With regard to the ship service of DBS Cruise Ferry, the efforts for the launching are progressing positively.
 Be that as it may, the economic climate at home is extremely worrisome. We have been at the mercy of a poor economy and unemployment for the whole year. We learned the hard way that Tottori Prefecture is connected to the world. At the beginning of this year, soaring crude oil prices became an issue. Material prices also skyrocketed and the economy has been swayed to a large degree. In the middle of it, the subprime loan problem developed and the financial crisis which emerged in the United States has spread to Asia and Europe.
 Consequently, Tottori Prefecture is now beginning to sink into an acute sense of stagnation in the real economy. So we announced urgent employment and economy measures the other day. For the time being, we are planning to recruit temporary staff in the prefectural administration and accept residents into prefectural housing from the end of this year.
 The effective ratio of job offers to applicants in Tottori Prefecture stood at 0.59 in November. We cannot help thinking that it’s the effect of the labor adjustment by large companies. In response to this situation, we will need to steer toward new measures as early as the beginning of the new year.
 We have also challenged various themes such as environment and tourism this year. We have received an official go-ahead from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to establish the San-in Culture and Tourism Zone jointly with Shimane Prefecture. We are finally entering a new tourism period with no borders between the two prefectures.
 Environment-related projects have progressed, too. Graffiti at the Tottori Sand Dune drew attention. In order to realize our wish to develop and preserve the sand dune, which is our regional symbol, the ordinance for the protection and enhancement of the Tottori Sand Dune as Japan's best was enacted. This is a challenge initiated by Tottori Prefecture to become more friendly with the environment and develop tourism as well. We will get down to the establishment of an on-site office at the sand dune.
 The No Plastic Bag Day movement has started to gather momentum with the cooperation of civil groups and enterprises. The No Plastic Bag Day campaign, which was held all across Tottori Prefecture on November 10, was received rather favorably. This type of eco-friendly activity, which is the accumulation of small individual efforts, has come to the forefront this year.
 So many things have happened this year, but we have managed to keep Tottori Prefecture afloat thanks to the helping hands of many people. However, employment and economic conditions at home are extremely austere. We will set up consultation counters regarding emergency employment for temporary workers and the like in the Main Office, and Central and Western Tottori Regional Offices of Tottori Prefecture. We will start up measures at the end of this year at the earliest so that we can hold on as a region and spread out supportive safety nets.

Q. DBS Cruise Ferry has not decided what type of ship to mobilize for the ship service across the Sea of Japan, which is scheduled to be launched in next February. Will the ship be procured by lease?

 We haven’t received specific information about it yet. DBS Cruise Ferry is doing what they can and are determined to launch the ship service in February. We trust their efforts and are waiting to see how the situation develops.

Q. Tottori Prefecture drew up an alternative measure for the ordinance for relief for the victims of human rights violation which is frozen right now. What do you think of the need to assure certain conditions for the purpose?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the prefectural administration finalized the review process and drew up a program for enhancing the existing consultation services as the alternative measure, and that the program includes the establishment of a network among the national, prefectural, municipal and private sectors, which seems to require some measures for assurance,) We set up a consultation counter in the prefectural government office in April. Since then, we have been observing its outcome and developing our plan. And now we feel the need to enhance and expand the network of human resources with highly specialized skills and the organizational structure which functions as a third-party consultation service system.
 We are going to hear the views of residents of Tottori Prefecture about what kind of consultation system or organization is desired, and summarize them at the beginning of the new year.

Q. With regard to the said frozen human rights ordinance, some assembly members are proposing an ordinance to abolish it in the assembly’s February session. Do you plan to propose the abolition as the administrative leadership?

 If and when the idea of establishing enhanced consultation services capable of offering highly specialized advice is accepted, it will be possible to propose the abolition. However, I’m not sure if we will be able to summarize the opinions before the assembly’s February session begins. Various opinions might be expected, so we will proceed with deliberate consideration.

Q. In respect of the national academic achievement test, you said that the issue has reached a certain settlement. However, some municipal boards of education are expressing their complaints. What’s your take on it?

 They’re probably more concerns than complaints. With the introduction of a new system, they will make judgments while raising various questions, I think.

Q. In the discussion meeting of municipal boards of education yesterday, many participants questioned how long the educational subsidy amounting to 100 million yen will continue. I would like to hear your thoughts on this issue.

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the superintendent of the prefectural board of education declined to answer it for the reason that he has no authority to make the decision,) Educational subsidies must not be temporary by any means. The prefectural administration will not change the policy to support good educational programs for the time being. However, it may be necessary to review the matters such as what amount will be subsidized in total in the budget compilation.

Q. The effective ratio of job offers to applicants in Tottori Prefecture is very low. Would you give us some words of resolution to overcome this situation?

(After the reporter’s mentioning that Tottori Labor Bureau and Tottori Prefecture jointly announced their tentative goal to improve the effective ratio of job offers to applicants in Tottori Prefecture to 0.8 this year although the said ratio is extremely low now due to the global circumstance beyond the control of Tottori Prefecture or Governor Hirai alone,) The current employment and economy is affected largely by the global trend and beyond the efforts of Tottori Prefecture alone in many aspects. However, we need to clearly watch and do what we can do as a region. As the first stage, we will implement emergency measures around the new-year holidays.
 In the second stage, after the national government has compiled the initial budget (for fiscal 2009) and the second supplementary budget (for fiscal 2008), the Diet will be convened on January 5 and the debate will commence. Various developments are anticipated and it is too early for optimism. But the economic and employment measures proposed by the national government are large-scale in amount and degree, so some positive effects can be expected. By monitoring the national measures and combining them with the measures that we should carry out separately as a prefectural administration, we will propose our second stage measures. These will be more like a supplementary budget for January or February, but we see them as a task to be worked on in the beginning of the new year.
 The third stage will include mid-term and long-term measures. In this stage, it’s necessary to promote prioritized industrial development in consideration of how to boost the local economy in Tottori Prefecture and how to secure employment. Other than agriculture, forestry and fishery, food processing should be one of the targets to be strategically prioritized. The interest rates are extremely low now, which should mean the circumstances are favorable for business creation. We are going to actively support budding movements such as establishment of IT related companies.

Q. The prefectural administration will finish this year’s operation and enter the new-year vacation of 9 days. Have you presented any challenges at least to the executive staff for the vacation?

 The economic climate is extremely austere, which doesn’t allow for optimism at all. I’m planning to tell them that I hope they will prepare themselves to work in top gear from the very start of the new year and fulfill the mission of the public administration staff.

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