Yokai Festival in Nagoya Dome

 Yesterday, I participated in the Yokai Festival at Nagoya Dome. It was a highly successful event, with quite a number of parents and children in attendance. Yokai (Japanese faeries) is quite popular. We hope to continue to entice people to the romantic attractions of Tottori Prefecture.

Disabled People’s Affairs Division of Social Security Council

 I attended a meeting of the Disabled People’s Affairs division of the Social Security Council of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which was held in Tokyo, in order to provide testimony and make an appeal for the due revision of the Supporting Independence of People with Disabilities Law. I also argued that the current conditions, under which national subsidies to support the local systems for welfare of the disabled are running short in the middle of the fiscal year, are unacceptable.

Economic Policies

 I had a discussion at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications about local finance measures and the like. This discussion gave me the impression that Tokyo was compiling a number of economic measures to be completed by the end of this month at the latest. The soaring prices of oil, materials and feedstuffs have an especially great impact on the lives of Japanese citizens, and the businesses of Tottori Prefecture. I hope and expect that the national economic measures will respond to such issues.  I think that the prefectural administration needs to review the contents of the said measures immediately and reflect them in the supplementary budget to be presented in September. In addition, we are independently drawing up our own essential measures under the guidance of relevant parties in Tottori Prefecture. I’m planning to present these and other economic propositions in the prefectural assembly’s September session.

Ordinary Local Allocation Tax for Fiscal 2008

 The allocated amount of the ordinary local allocation tax has been finalized. The amount to be allocated to prefectures is over 150 billion yen, including temporary financial measure bonds, which is an increase of 3% over last year. However, with regard to Tottori Prefecture, comparing the allocated amounts before and after the Trinity Reform (regarding fiscal relationships between national and local governments), our estimates indicate that there will be a shortfall of 25.9 billion yen, which is far from satisfactory. However, we can take some satisfaction in knowing that the decreasing trend of tax allocation has been reversed.  In addition to that, we need to recover the shortfall of just under 300 million yen caused by the fuss over the temporary tax rates in last April. I asked Tokyo to cover the shortfall in cash if they are ready to include it in their supplementary budget.

Settlement of the General Account for Fiscal 2007

 The settlement of the general account for last year will soon be finalized. We were able to secure 5.2 billion yen from its actual balance. It’s a decent figure, I think.  However, the current situation is on a razor edge, with our finance-adjusting-type funds down to a little more than 40 billion yen and our ordinary revenue and expenditure ratio having risen to over 94%, which warrants vigilance.  The ration of local loans is below the national average, and thus out of the cautionary zone, but we need to keep on tightening monetary policies according to the settlement.

Supporters Group for Gainare Tottori

 The other day, the supporters group was organized under the leadership of the chairman of Tottori Federation of Small Business Associations and the campaign has kicked off in order to encourage local residents and enterprises in Tottori Prefecture to support Gainare Tottori (a professional soccer team). I will join the group and support Gainare in tackling their critical finance situation.  With regard to this issue, under extremely tight time constraints, Gainare is pressed by the J-League side to improve its financial condition and we need to discuss how to resolve the issue with Tottori City.  It’s unlikely that the prefecture will cover the financial shortfall of 200 million yen from the prefectural general account simply because of the shortfall. First, Gainare needs to make their corporate efforts and then the local residents and businesses need to join in support of the team.

Subdivision Lots for Sale in and around Tottori Port

 In order to dispose of the fallow land in and around Tottori Port, we have offered plots for sale or rent. Eight companies have applied so far, and we have made note of their briefings. We will continue with our measures to liquidate or otherwise make use of this land.

Discussion Session with Tottori and Kurayoshi Cities

 Today we stated a pilot program in the open space at Tottori Station’s north wing. The purpose of the program is to investigate how to develop the area surrounding the station--what we might call the "City Center”--how to control the traffic, and how to make it easy for tourists to enter and visit the city. We are planning to hold a discussion between Tottori and Kurayoshi Cities to explore the issues inherent in urban centers.

Q. With regard to Gainare, you mentioned holding a conference with relevant parties about the treatment of the fund and the like. Do you expect to make a withdrawal from the fund?

 In light of the fund's purpose, it could be one of the measures appropriate to a case such as this one. The fund is financed evenly by both Tottori Prefecture and Tottori City, so it should be discussed.  However, it’s unlikely that the fund will be used to cover the whole shortfall. In the long term, Gainare will continue to be run after it is promoted to J-League and it is not allowed to be completely dependent on the assistance.  Previously, being in the red was not an obstacle in the way of a team's promotion to J-League, but the latter has abruptly informed us that that's no longer the case. It’s a sudden turn of events and some emergency escape measures are necessary. I would like to discuss it with relevant parties.

Q. In case of making withdrawal from the fund, will you set any conditions to prevent managerial problems permanently?

 If we make the withdrawal, it will really be an emergency measure. I expect Gainare to know that we won’t take such measures again.

Q. We news reporters have lumped all sections of what is known as the "Prefectural Board of Education" under this blanket term in our news reports. Isn’t it possible to distinguish each section by changing its name, for example?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the secretariat of the prefectural board of education and the prefectural board of education are two different organizations,) The names of the board of education or the superintendent are set forth in the law and it will probably be impossible to change them.  However, layman control is one of the slogans of the Board of Education. If the people in the education sector have too much clout, it is possible that the internal logic will prevail and lead to disconnection from public opinion. Traditionally, former teachers have been preferentially appointed as members of the board, but there is room for reconsideration.

Q. If you intend to reflect public opinion in the lineup of the Board of Education, the popular election system of its members could be one option, for example.

 It’s impossible to introduce the system immediately. In the future, the overall reviewing will be necessary to deliberate issues such as abolishment of the Board of Education. The official works currently done by the Board could be managed by gubernatorial divisions or municipal mayor's affairs divisions.

Q. The Board of Education has no authority to submit a budget or bills, but it has great power of decision, which seems imbalanced.

 In theory, the best and simplest way is to conduct education together with the executive authorities. Otherwise, the question is whether the system could be established in which the educational administration is separated from the general administration and independently accountable to the public. It will be a very ambitious discussion, I think. But if it’s realized, the Board of Education will be abolished and a new system will be established in the executive divisions, with political neutrality and consideration for children in its legal provisions.

Q. What’s your evaluation of the new financial index based on the Local Government Finance Reconstruction Act?

 It’s important to use some sort of uniformly adopted index in order to monitor the conditions of each local government.  However, the index alone should not be used for all manners of judgment, but rather we should get a sense of our financial strength while compiling our budgets. Tottori Prefecture relies on dependent sources of revenue for a large portion of our budget. It’s safer to estimate our financial strength as less than that indicated by the index.

Q. In the Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, breaking the world records in both events. What is your reaction to his outstanding performance?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that Governor Hirai met Mr. Bolt in person last year and Mr. Bolt has a close tie with Tottori Prefecture,) I share Tottori residents' happiness about his great performance. I hope he will keep on breaking world records and go down in history as one of the greatest athletes of all time.  Japan’s male volleyball team was eliminated in the preliminary contest, unfortunately, but one of its players, Mr. Takahiro Yamamoto (who was born in Tottori), made a strong showing. The cyclist, Ms. Satomi Wadami (who was also born in Tottori) was forced to drop out of the race due to a collision, but she is a promising athlete, so I wish her good luck in the future. I want Mr. Yamamoto and Ms. Wadami to come home to Tottori Prefecture with pride.

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