Ms. Eruza Sasaki, Japan’s Representative in the Miss World Pageant

 Ms. Eruza Sasaki (raised in Tottori) was crowned Miss Japan 2009 and will represent the country in the Miss World 2009 pageant. I would like to offer her my heartfelt congratulations. I’m planning to ask her to assume the role of Hometown Ambassador (of Tottori Prefecture) next week when I meet her. I hope she will promote Tottori Prefecture on her glorious journey to the world.

Schedule, etc.

 These days have seen a flurry of events. Last week, “The 1st Chinese Cosplay Competition of Asia” was held in Encho-en Park. The event was skillfully managed by certain NGO members.
 At the end of this week, “The 3rd Yuru-chara Cup at the Tottori Sand Dune” will be held. Not less than 30 Yuru-charas (loose characters) will take part and compete to display their strength as well as cuteness.
 The No Plastic Bag Day campaign will be conducted on November 10. For promotional purposes, the Prefectural Residents’ Conference for No Plastic Bag Promotion will be held on November 1. I expect they will engage in discussion toward the eco-friendly lifestyle so suited to pro-environment Tottori Prefecture.

Economic Measures

 The state of the economy is still somewhat unclear. This morning, I took part in an urgent meeting with top-ranking executives of local financial institutions and commercial and industrial organizations. Tomorrow Tottori Prefecture will launch a new financing system. It aims to expand the framework of loans for small-sized businesses. On the same day, the national government will change the current system and increase the safety-net loans in order for small and medium-sized companies of almost all business sectors to benefit from the assurance.  Accordingly, the prefectural administration will set up consultation counters (Tottori Prefecture’s Urgent Consultation Counter of Financing for Small and Medium-Sized Companies, as tentatively translated). In the meeting this morning, we discussed the establishment of new systems like this.
 We have reached a consensus for working together on these measures and I strongly hope that the companies will utilize the services of the counters or financing institutions in order to weather this severe economic downturn. Without handling the systems rigidly, Tottori Prefecture will incorporate the opinions received from the field flexibly and continue to examine systems such as we have in place, including government-backed loans.

Q. In this morning’s newspapers, Prime Minister Aso is reported to plan to divert 1 trillion yen from the road-use revenues to local governments. What do you think of it?

 We don’t have all the information at this point. I wonder how the amount of 1 trillion yen will be allocated, and if the amount will be allocated intensively enough to the regions where road construction is actually needed, which is the focal point. I think the situation is still unclear in relation to the debate on incorporating road-specific tax revenues into general use. I cannot evaluate it until I get the details.
 The important point is that the construction of the expressway network is delayed in the San’in Region. I think this is one of the causes of various disparities between our and other regions in Japan. I want the national government to deal with this issue adequately. We have had discussions with Miyazaki Prefecture, which is under conditions similar to ours, and our two prefectures are in agreement about expressing our concerns regarding the issue of expressway construction next month. This issue remains a separate matter, so I want Tokyo to handle the situation carefully so that the allocation of 1 trillion yen to the local governments will not have a negative impact on this road issue.
 Under the recent political circumstances, there is an argument that economic measures should be prioritized and the dissolution of the Lower House of the Diet should be postponed, which I think is inevitable. I want both the ruling coalition and the opposition camp to reach an agreement for the sake of the quality of life of Japanese citizens and decide on additional measures immediately. Financial measures seem to be used as bargaining tools, but I’d like to see the parties in the national arena refrain from spending so much time on this that it ends up accelerating the current economic downturn and recession.
 As an alternative to a fixed-sum tax cut, a direct provision of cash or coupons worth 2 trillion yen is likely to be approved. I’d like to see Tokyo plan out measures that will generate synergic effects, such as vitalizing local shopping areas and encouraging consumption. Mere pork barrel politics will have limited effects. So, if the local regions are required to rack their brains, we in Tottori Prefecture will search for the most effective measures possible.

Q. You said that the postponement of the said dissolution is inevitable. If actually postponed, when do you think the dissolution should occur?

 The national public probably feels that it should be considered relative to the economic climate. There is a heightened call among the people in Japan that no time can be wasted on the election when the economy is not stable. The implementation of policies should be taken into account when the timing of the dissolution and election is discussed.

Q. Does this current situation affect your administration in matters such as compilation of the initial budget for the next fiscal year?

 I think it will have a huge impact. First of all, it’s difficult to budget the revenues. It will possibly affect the resource of the local allocation tax for the local governments’ side. The budget request for the local allocation tax was reduced by 600 billion yen. I’m now demanding that the national government restore the amount to the previous level, but it’s getting less and less likely as the resources keep shrinking.

Q. The policies regarding the initial budget are nearly due for release. Do you have any specific ideas?

 No doubt we are at a difficult stage. While the expectation for revenues is getting lower and lower, there is a fear that the local economy might experience a gradual downturn, so a shot of adrenalin might be necessary. We will do our best to secure our financial frame for the remaining fund amounting to 30 billion yen. However, if these circumstances continue through next year, the year after next, and further, such a set of goals will be affected.

Q. Regarding the information disclosure issue, have you given any instructions to incorporate punitive clauses in the provisions to limit the permissible purposes for the disclosure based on the information disclosure ordinance?

 (After the reporter’s questioning concerning the disclosure of the result of the national academic achievement test,) I think the board of education is drawing up the draft proposal right now. I haven’t received the proposal yet and I have never issued any order in regard to this issue. The board of education is probably reflecting the various opinions which have been given so far, taking their discussions with local municipalities into account, and making a last-minute effort. I would like to keep an eye on the development.

Q. What do you think of the idea of putting limitation on the permissible purposes of disclosure in addition to the existing information disclosure ordinance?

 We need to see what kind of system it will actually be when we think of this. In this case, as the board of education has no power to propose the ordinance, I think we should draw up the ordinance based on the board of education’s proposal in order to complement the board’s function to a certain degree. We will do our best to reflect the opinion of the board in the process as much as possible. I cannot yet picture what kind of provisions the ordinance will include.

Q. Regarding the revision of the ordinance, did the board of education or its secretariat consult you on what type of limitation will be possible? And what limitation do you have in mind on this matter?

 (After the reporter’s stressing that it’s specifically a question about the limitation which is under a debate concerning the ordinance,) As a hands-on approach, the board is drawing up the draft proposal while holding dialogues with local municipalities and municipal boards of education, so I will monitor how it develops. Generally speaking, various types of regulations could be possible based on the information disclosure ordinance or the personal information protection ordinance, and limitation clauses are already in place, such as those limiting the items of unclassified information, limiting the persons who can apply for the disclosure, or requiring proper treatment of the information. I think we will be able to draw up various provisions based on these clauses. We will wait for the proposal from the board of education before putting together the concrete ideas.

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