National Governors’ Association

 Yesterday and the day before, I attended the National Governors’ Association’s meeting. At this timing, when Prime Minister Aso has announced his decision to dissolve the Lower House of the Diet, the meeting became a very tense one.
 As a result of the heated debate, the National Governors’ Association decided to evaluate the manifestos of each political party only in terms of decentralization. We will score the parties’ manifestos, make the standard of the scoring available to the public, and convey the evaluation results to each political party. We will initiate a movement to urge each of the parties to accept our proposition in view of the realization of decentralization.
 Regarding the declaration of support for particular political parties, I suggested a different idea from that of Governor Hashimoto of Osaka Prefecture and others and the vast majority supported my idea in the end, which resulted in the cancellation of the declaration. However, we unanimously agreed on the evaluation and scoring of (the manifestos of) each party.
 We discussed other various issues and I had lots of chances to talk with the governors of each prefecture. Governor Ido of Hyogo Prefecture and I shared the determination to push strongly toward the registration (of the San’in Coast) in the Global Geopark Network.
 I also agreed with the young governors that it’s so unclear in which direction the national administration will be headed that we should utilize the fresh sensitivity of our youth in order to propose policies which will fit the possible change in values.

Schedule, etc.

 In relation to the launching of DBS Cruise Ferry, I made an urgent decision to attend the Summit for International Exchange and Cooperation of Regional Governments in Northeast Asia which will be held in Tuv Aimag, Mongolia, next week. I fervently hope to seize this opportunity of the summit talk in order to reach an agreement among Tottori Prefecture, Gangwon Province of South Korea, and Primorsky Krai of Russia on the establishment of a conference which will proceed with concrete promotion measures for the regular cargo-passenger ship service across the Sea of Japan. Furthermore, I will seek participation (in the conference) from Jilin Province of China and Tuv Aimag of Mongolia, which have economic exchange routes with Russia. Although it hasn’t been officially announced, I hear that Gangwon Province has a similar intention, so I strongly hope to take this opportunity and discuss the matter with Governor Kim Jinsun (of Gangwon Province) and Governor Darkin of Primorsky Krai of Russia.
 I will attend the 29th All Japan Triathlon Kaike, which is to be held (in Yonago City and Sakaiminato City, Tottori Prefecture) this weekend.
 A historical novel entitled “弩(do: a weapon used in ancient East Asia which resembles the crossbow)” will be published by Shogakukan, Inc. I hear that this historical novel depicts the old story of eight samurais hired in Chizu Town, Tottori Prefecture, on which the movie, “Seven Samurai” is thought to be based. I will meet the author of this novel and other relevant parties.
 With regard to environment issues, based on the environmental exchange declaration adopted (two years ago in the regional summit talk of Northeast Asia) in Sakaiminato City(, Tottori Prefecture), the staff members (of each regional government) in charge of the environmental issues will discuss the issue of yellow sand (which is carried to a large area over East Asia by the wind from deserts on the Chinese continent) for the first time. Within Tottori Prefecture, in consideration of the agreement adopted in the L’Aquila Summit, for the purpose of contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions, we will hold a workshop about carbon offset, under which the providers will offer and conduct measures to increase absorption of carbon dioxide (by plants, earth, and so on).
 Promotional events for child-rearing are planned for next month. As a preliminary program, I will keep goats in the governor’s official residence as I did last year. We are planning a demonstrational project for collaboration with livestock and agriculture industries utilizing goats.
 As a preliminary event to the 31st National Rich Sea Creation Festival (as tentatively translated), for which Tottori Prefecture was officially designated as the hosting party the year after next, we will have a fish releasing event. Tomorrow at 11:20 am in New Tomari Fishing Port, we will release flatfish, designated as a prefectural fish of Tottori, together with the students of Tomari Elementary School.

Q. You proposed in The National Governors’ Association’s meeting that the consumption tax rate be raised. What, specifically, do you have in mind?

 (After the reporter’s questioning how high Governor Hirai thinks the tax rate should be and how much he thinks the local consumption tax should be as a proportion of the consumption tax,) I said that we should propose fundamental structure reform in the tax systems from prefectural ones to national ones, including the expansion of the local consumption tax rate. I haven’t come up with specifics on how high the tax rate should be yet.

Q. What impact do you think the governors’ evaluation of manifestos you mentioned in this conference will have on the next Lower House election and future national policies, and what’s your take on Governor Hashimoto’s comment on it?

 (After the reporter’s referring to the National Governors’ Association’s decision to evaluate and score manifestos of each political party only in terms of decentralization and mentioning that it seems Governor Hashimoto appreciates it as he thinks it will constitute a kind of declaration of support for political parties,) I insisted that the scoring be simple and the items be ranked so that political parties will be encouraged to do their personal best and the national public will be able to understand it.
 As a result, 10 points were allocated to each item and 30 points to the item of legislating of a new negotiating body to establish a new relation between the national and local (governments). The item of this new negotiating body is highly prioritized. I imagine that each political party is in the middle of drawing up their manifestos now. I have a high expectation that it (the governors’ said evaluation) will have positive effects for the progress of decentralization.
 I haven’t heard what Governor Hashimoto said about it, but if he said that it is tantamount to a declaration of support for political parties, he is wrong. This is evaluation and scoring of political parties and the governors’ association will conduct the objective evaluation and provide it for voters as one informative barometer, I think. The main characters in elections are certainly the voters, and the sovereignty of Japan resides in its people. I think that we should be moderate enough as the governors’ association not to go beyond providing the people with appropriate materials for judgment.

Q. The governors’ association reached a certain degree of agreement on their stance against the reform of the financial burden system (imposed on local governments). Will you comment on your evaluation of it and the remaining issues?

 (After the reporter’s requesting that Governor Hirai mention his evaluation concerning the issue of maintenance costs for national roads and rivers,) I agreed on it (the governors’ association’s decision) since it’s exactly the same as what I had said repeatedly in this press conference. I emphasized in the meeting of the National Governors’ Association that we need to be ultimately prepared since the battle will be extremely intense.
 From around August the time of payment (of the financial burden on local governments for national public works projects) will begin. Chairman Nii (of the Construction and Transportation Standing Committee of the National Governors’ Association, who is also the governor) of Yamaguchi Prefecture says we should negotiate with Tokyo until the last minute, but if the negotiation ends up failing, it will become a conflict involving refusal of payment.
 Because of the legislative relations between the national and local governments, it could be extremely tense and we cannot deny that the situation could turn into a dispute. This may be the first time that the governors’ association is so united and determined. I appreciate that it shows the governors’ association is so resolved to take action this time.

Q. If the governors’ association’s request is not accepted, do you intend to resort to extreme measures including refusal of payment as the prefectural administration of Tottori?

 I will make a stand in the battle.

Q. Yesterday the Tottori Prefectural Police Department announced its withdrawal from the organizing committee of “Demonstrational Town Planning Project for Prosperous Downtown Tottori.” What do you think of it as the prefectural administration?

 (After the reporter’s requesting that Governor Hirai comment on how the Tottori Prefectural Administration is perceiving the current situation and how the discussion should be conducted from now on,) I think that the prefectural police dropped out (of the organizing committee) before the discussion was finalized this time since the police judged it necessary for them to draw a clear line between the committee and themselves as the authorizing party for (permission of) occupancy of roads or traffic controls. However, since the project is scheduled for September, the issue needs to be resolved (urgently). I think that the prefectural administration, the national government, Tottori City, and the prefectural police should start discussion once again in order to finalize adjustment plans.
 Tottori City expressed its regret in a press conference. I think it’s also unilateral. The prefectural police department has made various requests and adjustments based on their own way of seeing things, I think. The national government, the prefectural administration, Tottori City, and the prefectural police should make sure that all four parties have a place at the discussion table.

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