At the Beginning of the New Year

 Let me say, “Happy New Year!” to those of you in the Tottori Prefectural Government Press Club, and to the residents of Tottori Prefecture. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a glorious new year.
 The economy and the living conditions in the prefecture still remain extremely austere. At the end of last year, we set up consultation counters for livelihood, economy, and employment. Twice as many people came for consultation as in the previous year, and all of them expressed their harsh situations. The prefectural administration needs to take some measures in order to remedy the severe conditions by any means available.
 This year finally heralds the Great Exchange Era. In March, construction of the Tottori Expressway will be completed all the way to the Tottori Interchange. In addition, Amarube Bridge is under construction to be replaced with a new structure; the runway of the Yonago Airport was extended to 2,500 meters at the end of last year; and DBS Cruise Ferry also launched their ship service. These are all indicating that the San’in Region is on the way to becoming not only a key juncture in Japan but also a window to the world.
 While making the most of this kind of connective function, we will plan out the next steps as a region. I hope that the residents of Tottori will join the efforts. We will also actively support and develop these measures as the prefectural administration.
 We are now paying close attention to the development of the national supplementary budget. While monitoring the deliberation in the ordinary Diet session, we will combine our own independent initiative with it in order to implement economy and employment measures early on. Depending on the case, we may have to consider the possibility of convoking a special session of the prefectural assembly. In view of such moves for this year, there are a number of challenges that we have to take on.
 One of them is the entry of the San'in Coast Geopark into the Global Geopark Network, which we want to accomplish at all costs. The office of the San’in Geopark Promotion Council (as tentatively translated) was established within the Hyogo prefectural government at the end of last year, and a member of Tottori Prefectural staff has been dispatched there. The measures are continuing toward the said registration.
 We are planning to start our full-fledged efforts this year in order to host the International Manga Summit in 2012. Between the beginning of the New Year and the spring season, a full-scale search for candidate sites in Japan will commence. As other sites are expected to announce their candidacy, we will do our utmost to make our ideas known (to the parties concerned).
 It’s also necessary to cultivate new industrial structures. To this end, environmental measures are called for, including those regarding forestry. Early this year, Tottori prefectural administration is planning to participate in the environmental assessment called “J-VER,” which is a system to thin the forests and sell the wood as a business development. We are now making preparation to hold a symposium for the purpose.
 We will also strengthen our own unique measures, such as the creation of lawns on schoolyards. We are planning to hold a symposium for this purpose next spring.
 In relation to agriculture, forestry, and fishery sectors, the project for employment assistance had a considerable response. Since it’s included in the initial budget of the national government, we will utilize part of it and combine it with our independent measures. We will need to consider the themes of agriculture, forestry, and fishery as one of the axes of industrial development in the future.
 We are also actively engaged in attracting business to our region. We will strive to encourage companies related to solar power generation panels, electric cars, and the like, to establish new facilities in Tottori. A study group is expected to be launched with the participation of smaller companies in Tottori Prefecture, and the industrial structure reform will be highlighted as a challenge of the New Year.
 The initial budget is under compilation now. We, the administration of Tottori Prefecture, will start implementing measures toward the establishment of regional sovereignty. We are having a discussion in a study meeting now on the allotment of roles between national, prefectural, and municipal authorities. In the case of such small autonomies as ours, it will be effective to remove some of the boundaries between the prefectural government and the municipalities and proceed with measures in a “cooperative fashion”.
Starting with the issue of collecting taxes, I very much hope to exchange ideas with municipalities for the budget of the next fiscal year. I would like to deliberate this Tottori-Prefecture-style administrative collaboration with prefectural and municipal governments in the next fiscal year.
 There are a variety of difficult challenges awaiting us this year, but we are now facing a turning of the tides. What we must be aware of, however, is the fact that the shift in national policies is likely to accompany some pain on the regional side and certain remedial treatments will be required. Tottori Prefecture will also have to strengthen our efforts from now on, in such areas as welfare and education. It’s important to foster volunteer activities, regional power, or what should be called “Tottori Power.”
 In spite of the various challenges, I’m determined to make this year one blessed with new bright opportunities. To conclude the opening of this year’s first press conference, I would like to ask the residents of Tottori Prefecture for loyal cooperation and support.

Q. Regarding the special assembly session of the prefecture, will you be specific about the scales of the projects and the budget that you are planning to propose?

 In consideration of fund limitations, the scale won’t be as large as the ones proposed in the assembly last January. On the scale of several billion yen, we are planning to propose the additional budget centering on public investment for daily needs, as well as the measures related to employment. Although we are proceeding with the creation of more than 100 job positions within the prefectural administration, the number is not large enough and we will make another budgetary proposal in the special session.

Q. When will the session be convoked?

 It depends on when the national Diet session opens. According to some news reports, it will be on January 18, when the second supplementary budget of the national government will start to undergo deliberation. We will need to monitor the development for a while before making the decision. I’m thinking of the period between the end of this month and the beginning of next month as the window for the convocation.

Q. A few moments ago, you expressed your intention to include the prefecture’s independent policies in the economy and employment measures. Did you mean to refer to the employment measures, in particular?

 That’s right. The employment measures will be the main target. As for agriculture, forestry, and fishery, the project for employment assistance, which we conducted independently last year, is greatly appreciated. Such projects will also be the target for deliberation.

Q. Concerning the construction of the expressways, when are you going to put requests to the national government?

 We will have to wait and see the development of the special Diet session in order to decide on the time to make the requests. It will be roughly before the Diet session begins, I think. It will be necessary to make adjustments with the relevant parties.

Q. In that case, do you plan to coordinate with other prefectures as one of your options?

 I had a discussion with the 8 other prefectures. And we are all in agreement that the joint action of the 9 prefectures should be taken after a suitable interval.

Q. Regarding the prefectural tax revenues, will you comment on the estimation for the current fiscal year based on the results as of last December, as well as the expected amount for the next fiscal year?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that Tottori Prefecture’s tax revenues in the initial budget for the current fiscal year decreased by 15 percent, compared with the previous fiscal year,) As the tax revenues for this fiscal year were estimated at an extremely low rate in the initial budget, such a large shortfall is not expected in the revenues themselves. However, the adjustment of local consumption tax involves monetary exchanges with other prefectures. In consideration of this, the revenue shortfall is expected to amount to about 500 or 600 million yen at present.
 The estimation of tax revenues for the new fiscal year is under way now. While monitoring the future development of the national government’s local finance plan, we will finalize the details of the estimation.

Q. The national budget plan was finalized at the end of last year, which contains unclear and uncertain elements for Tottori Prefecture. How did you feel as a prefectural governor, when you greeted the New Year?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the national budget proposal seems to be still unclear to a large degree about each specific project planned in Tottori Prefecture, and questioning how Governor Hirai is going to deal with the Hatoyama Administration this year,) With regard to the budgetary issue, we collected the information at the yearend until the last minute on December 28. However, there has been no information obtained regarding concrete budget allocation, except for that pertaining to the dams. While continuing to collect information, we will need to convey our ideas and requests concerning the budget allocation to Tokyo. In budgetary terms, I have the impression that the New Year has begun in a more undecided, uncertain, and unsettled state, than usual.
 In dealing with the Hatoyama Administration, we should engage ourselves in discussions as a regional side with a policy of being fair and just. I have a high hope for the prime minister’s intention toward regional sovereignty itself, feeling that it has a potential to change the tide of the times, but its real picture still remains to be clearly seen.
 As the world seems to be moving toward eco-friendliness and regional sovereignty, I hope that Tokyo will take the active leadership in that spirit. If the course is set, it’s possible that the wind will change to a good direction for Tottori Prefecture.

Copyright(C) 2006~ 鳥取県(Tottori Prefectural Government) All Rights Reserved. 法人番号 7000020310000