Hosting the National Arbor Day

 We are planning to bid to host the National Arbor Day in 2013, which we have been unofficially requested to do by the National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization. Tottori Prefecture has been taking the initiative on the national level in promoting projects related to this field, such as “Forest of Harmony,” and encouraging employment in the forest industry. These efforts will give Tottori Prefecture enormous opportunities to contribute to the countermeasures against global warming.
 We will proceed with related discussions with the national government and the National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization, while consulting relevant parties.

National and Prefectural Supplementary Budgets to be discussed in June

 Yesterday the large-scale supplementary budget amounting to 14 trillion 698.7 billion yen passed the Lower House of the Diet. The Upper House is expected to later proceed with the deliberation of the budget. Although related bills remain to be seen, I think it’s getting more and more likely that the budget will be approved, since the Lower House’s choice overrides the Upper House’s selection (in specific cases under the Constitution).
 The budget covers employment, financial measures, and public works. We will collect the relevant information and monitor the development, and do what we can to manage to propose our budget in the prefectural assembly session in June. I expect that last-minute adjustments will be required for that.

Presidential Election of the Democratic Party of Japan

 The political situation in the national arena is a concern. President Ozawa of the Democratic Party of Japan announced his resignation and the party will be choosing next president in no time. Since it’s a crucial point now for the party to take the governmental reins, I hope they will have a thorough discussion within the party and choose its leader carefully from the standpoint of the national public.
 However, the logic of Nagata-cho (a district of Tokyo where many key facilities of the national government are located) seems to be dominant. They are going to choose not the representative of a neighborhood association but the president who may become the prime minister. So, frankly speaking, I wish they had arranged a presidential election which fully reflects the will of the national public. I had the impression that a political party act, or the Political Party Subsidies Act, should stipulate the system and procedures for choosing a party leader in manner open to the citizens of our nation.

Schedule, etc.

 The other day I visited the headquarters of JT (Japan Tobacco Inc.) together with Governor Tasso of Iwate Prefecture, Mayor Tanifuji of Morioka City (in Iwate Prefecture), Mayor Kato of Odawara City (in Kanagawa Prefecture), and Mayor Nosaka of Yonago City (in Tottori Prefecture), and pleaded with them to maintain their plants in each prefecture, although we unfortunately failed to reach an agreement on this issue. We just confirmed with JT that we will keep the communication channel open and set up negotiation tables. JT and we also discussed the necessity of their exerting their utmost efforts for preservation of the minimum standard for employment. After that I made relevant requests to the national government and lawmakers. I hope and expect that the government and lawmakers will respond to our calls and put pressure on JT.
 The National Governors’ Association’s meeting and the Chugoku and Shikoku Regional Summit are scheduled for next week. In the regional summit, I’m thinking of suggesting that we discuss the rising demand for tourism thanks to (the introduction of) the 1,000-yen expressway toll. In the governor’s association’s meeting, I think we should talk about the issues we need to tackle now, such as decentralization, and the economic and employment measures. With regard to the issue of the financial burden on local governments for national public works projects, which is drawing rapid attention, we need to exchange views openly.
 Next week, “JAPAN WEEK 2009” will be held in Chuncheon City, South Korea. In consideration of the friendly ties between Tottori Prefecture and Gangwon-do (in South Korea) and the future development of the Yonago-Seoul flight services and DBS Cruise Ferry, the Tottori prefectural administration will exert our all-out efforts for this event by presenting a panel exhibition for tourism promotion, organizing demonstration of the Gaina Lantern Festival of Yonago City (in Tottori Prefecture) and displaying traditional craftworks of the Daisen Yuzen-dyed fabrics.

Q. Regarding the presidential election of DPJ, do you think that they should elect their new leader by allowing the party members and supporters across Japan to cast the ballots?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that in the said presidential election, the voting rights are limited to the plenary meeting of the party members of both houses of the Diet,) I think that the people in Nagata-cho (national lawmakers) should realize that the trend of the times is surely moving toward a two-party system. Although it’s an important election to choose a candidate who has the potential to become the next prime minister, the style adopted in the said election of the DPJ (the Democratic Party of Japan) seems to make the election far and unavailable to the public.
 According to the internal discussion of the DPJ reported by the mass media, they will elect their new leader without allowing the party’s lawmakers to spend time in collecting regional voices. It would have been better for the DPJ to demonstrate the will to elect the future prime minister, from the standpoint of increasing the party’s popularity.
 I feel that Japan’s democracy may be partially immature in its system. The winner of the election may become the prime minister of Japan, not just the representative of some neighborhood association. I think it’s a good idea to debate the legal system with an awareness of that sort of importance.

Q. Do you mean that national lawmakers should be allowed to spend more time listening to regional voices, or that a wider range of people other than national lawmakers should also cast the ballots?

 If the party tries to establish the most rigid and ideal election system, they should elect their party executives with all the party members and supporters involved in the selection process. That’s how an open official political party should be. Having said that, it’s the party’s own internal matter, so I should not be so intrusive as to make comments on this issue.
 Rather, since the tax money amounting to as much as 30 billion yen is allocated to political parties under the Political Party Subsidies Act, I suggest that the act should stipulate the parties’ responsibility to make their party system open.

Q. With regard to DBS Cruise Ferry, was there any progress or development?

 DBS’s staff members’ visit to Tottori has been delayed a bit. I take it that they are in the middle of exerting their last-minute efforts with a view to launching the ship service by the end of June.

Q. What benefit will the National Arbor Day bring to Tottori Prefecture? How much monetary contribution is required to host it, and through what kind of procedure will the hosting party be selected?

 It’s a project cosponsored by the National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization and each prefecture, so the hosting party will be selected in the talk with the National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization. Since The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be involved, it will actually require adjustments with the national government to a large degree. As for the monetary contribution, I intend to make the event itself simple (and inexpensive).
 It’s true that some prefectures cleared mountainous areas to plant trees in previous cases. But a tactic of that kind is not appropriate for the century of environmental protection. So we will plan out the whole lineup of the event, aiming at making the arboreal festival simple and getting our message across. It will give us an opportunity to convey information regarding Tottori Prefecture’s approaches to utilizing the blessings from the forest, such as wooden crafts, mushrooms, forest products, and other things related to the Food Capital Tottori Prefecture.

Q. Concerning JT, you said that you and they will keep the communication channel open and set up negotiation tables. Am I right in understanding that the goal of the negotiations will be calling off the closedowns of their plants?

 The three prefectures (Tottori, Kanagawa, and Iwate) and three cities (Yonago, Odawara, and Morioka) intend to urge JT to review their planned closedowns, including the possibility of calling them off or delaying them. We and JT are still as far apart as ever on this issue, but each of the three prefectures has made appeals to the national government and lawmakers. So we will consider our further responses with an eye on the development of the results of the appeals.

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