At the Beginning of the New Year

 I would like to take this occasion to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Your continued support is greatly appreciated in my prefectural administration this year.
 Tottori Prefecture is now entering an extremely difficult phase. Since we are the smallest prefecture in Japan, we need to read the trend of the times quickly and be flexible as we take action. That will be Tottori Prefecture’s main strategy.
 Amid the harsh economy and employment, we have implemented emergency economic and employment measures so that residents can endure the austere situation in and around the New Year holidays in Tottori Prefecture. I feel that the measures are becoming effective to a certain degree; for example, some families have actually been accepted into the public housing offered by Tottori Prefecture.
 Today I will convene a meeting to support companies which plan to enlarge their facilities with a long-term perspective.
 We will try to go forward with a proactive administration of the prefecture early from the beginning of the new year, by exchanging information regarding attractions or facility expansion (of local companies) focusing on the industries which are not so hard-hit by the current situation, such as food-related industries, as opposed to the automotive or electric industries, which are strangled by the current circumstances because of their dependency on exports.
 Adequate defense is necessary, of course, and sufficient energy must be put into it. However, it’s also necessary to be proactive from the start of the year in order to open future prospects. A number of events are scheduled from the beginning of the year. In order to encourage thinking about the environment, we will hold “the Symposium for Environmental Contribution by Enterprises and Forest Management (as tentatively translated)” this weekend. We will invite Mr. Tadao Ando, a famous architect, and offer the opportunity to deepen our understanding with regard to Tottori Prefecture’s environmental challenges, as typified by the “Forest of Harmony (as tentatively translated)” project.
 The number of participating companies in the Forest of Harmony has steadily increased to 11. We are now thinking of the possibility to expand this project into an agricultural or intermediate-and-mountainous-area campaign as “Village of Harmony,” so to speak. We will need to deliberate on it as one of the measures for the next fiscal year.
 Apart from the economy and employment measures, one of our biggest challenges is the registration of the San-in Coast in the World Geopark Network, which we will seek to accomplish in cooperation with Kyoto and Hyogo Prefectures. Our three prefectures are now at the coordination stage to jointly establish a support team consisting of academic researchers for this registration.
 In addition, we will actively and boldly tackle various issues including the review of Independence Support Law for People with Disabilities, enforcement of the ordinance for the protection and enhancement of the Tottori Sand Dune as Japan's best, and deliberation on how the consultation service should be offered regarding human rights.
 It must not be forgotten that this year will mark the opening of the Great Exchange Era. Honestly speaking, I cannot deny that we have concerns regarding the launching of DBS Cruise Ferry’s ship service (across the Sea of Japan). Launching a ship service in the middle of an extremely severe economic climate will be attended by great difficulty. However, we must support this project now in order to nurture the budding future.
 The Tottori Expressway will be opened to traffic as far as Kawahara Interchange this spring. The expressway is highly likely to be fully opened in the next fiscal year, with the exception of certain parts of the road. We will actively request that the national government promise to complete the project. Moreover, we will need to do all we can toward the progress of other projects whose completions are quite uncertain, such as the San-in Expressway.
 In view of the extension of Yonago Airport’s runway to 2500 meters, Tottori Prefecture will finally enter the Great Exchange Era. We will need to exert ourselves and seize this opportunity without fail to secure positive effects for the economy and the livelihood of the prefecture.
 Besides that, the future vision will be set out in this period. We will need to prepare this year for the establishment of the networks aimed at regional development. The prefectural administration will take part to a certain degree in the establishment of the networks in which to exchange knowhow for development of human resources and regions in cooperation with municipalities or participants in various regional activities. Interpersonal networks of this kind will need to be set up for the future direction Tottori Prefecture is going to take.
 Furthermore, we need to start forming Tottori Prefecture of Human Assets this year. One of the main themes in the First Year of Tottori Prefecture of Human Assets is the networks for regional development. The most important will be the issue of children’s education. We need to set up a system where everyone will cooperate and engage themselves in education for children, at the regional and household levels, while sharing necessary information within the region. We are in the middle of a discussion to prepare an educational subsidy amounting to 100 million yen in the current budget compilation.

Q. In the ceremony to mark the first work day of the year a short time ago, you mentioned the possibility of action prior to the prefectural assembly’s February session. Do you mean to convoke an extraordinary assembly session?

 It’s necessary for us to monitor the political situation in the national arena including the way the budget draft will be discussed in order to make the decision. We will judge ideas collected from all the staff of the prefectural administration and the political circumstances in a comprehensive manner before deciding whether the assembly will need to be convoked or not. At the current stage, we haven’t yet reached such a conclusion. However, we must be sure not to miss the opportunity.
 In case the national government becomes dysfunctional, it’s important that regional governments are able to compensate. We are planning to conduct hearings with each division of the administration concerning currently urgent issues, such as emergency economic and employment measures, in particular, and I will receive each division’s opinions for discussion tomorrow.

Q. Regarding the said emergency measures around the New Year holidays, what do you think of their results? And do you plan to take any additional measures for employment as the prefectural administration?

 (After the reporter’s mentioning that the prefecture has received some application and inquiries concerning public housing so far,) I went to the consultation counter in the prefectural government office on December 30 for a pep talk. As was expected, there were a large number of inquiries about applications for temporary staff positions, which seems to indicate that direct employment is of high interest in Tottori Prefecture. This trend in employment is a theme to be closely monitored.
 Now we have prepared a temporary employment framework capable of hiring not less than 200 people. Relevant nationally funded projects will also be highly effective if their launching becomes feasible. But rather than waiting for this to happen, it’s necessary for us to decide whether 200 job positions plus something extra should be deliberated while monitoring how the situation develops surrounding applications for temporary or part-time positions in the prefectural administration. Presently, we are asking each division of the prefecture whether it will be possible to hire personnel beyond the said employment basis of 200 people. I think we will need to expand the employment basis while monitoring the national measures.

Q. In the first workday ceremony, you raised the question of whether the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors could be employment bases. Do you have any support plans in that regard, such as promotion campaigns?

 It will be necessary to actively accept U-turn, I-turn and J-turn residents (to Tottori Prefecture). In the national government, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has finally moved toward starting projects aimed at employing 1000 people in the agricultural sector, which we will monitor and utilize, if possible.
 As for forestry sector in Tottori Prefecture, for example, some forestry cooperatives are willing to hire staff immediately, which is relatively unknown. By enhancing the training programs, there is ample room for expansion of employment in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors in Tottori Prefecture.
 Especially now, there are people throughout the nation who have difficulty finding a place to live. The circumstance in Tottori Prefecture is different from that of large cities, so we should actively encourage such people to come to Tottori Prefecture and engage in agriculture, forestry or fishery. It’s necessary for the relevant divisions to study the measures.

Q. Do you have any resolutions or objectives for this year?

 It’s necessary to consider the next 15 months as a one-year-long span in making efforts (as a fiscal year starts on April 1 in Japan). The two-front strategy of offense and defense is the theme that I have in mind for this year

Q. If you dare to express what you hope the next year will be like in one Chinese character, what will the character be?

 With expectation for rising, “昇(meaning “rise”)” will be the one, which symbolizes “sunrise.” I don’t think the current austerity will end within one year. That’s why, however, we need to carry on with the vision like the sunrise, which I believe will lead us to the future.

Q. Some people express expectation for public projects in terms of employment and demand creation. To what level do you think the public projects will be reflected in the next fiscal year’s budget?

 As emergency measures around the New Year holidays, we advanced the projects we considered effective for the local economy, such as maintenance and repairs (of roads, rivers and so on). In relation to the national second supplementary budget, we will need to implement similar budgetary efforts.
 With regard to the public investment for the next fiscal year, although the national government intends to cut the budget by 5 percent compared to this fiscal year, Tottori Prefecture will try to maintain this year’s level, or limit the reduction to 2 to 3 percent. In consideration of the current local economy, it’s necessary to keep the basic policy which will aim at cutting the reduction rate (of the prefectural public investment) to a lower level than that of the national public investment.

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