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Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
Devolution action plan
A devolution strategy conference headed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Dec. 16 endorsed a draft action plan to transfer local bureaus of central government ministries to local governments. The government will submit relevant bills to the Diet in 2012 for transferring such local bureaus to bloc-wide federations of local governments. The government aims to achieve the transfer in fiscal 2014.
But the plan lacks concreteness. At this stage, there are no bloc-wide federations above prefectures and no sufficient discussions have been held on the shape of such federations. There is a federation in the Kansai region. But not all the prefectural governments in the regions have taken part in it.
There are about 300,000 national public servants. Of them, some 200,000 are now working at local bureaus of central government ministries. These bureaus are mainly managing and supervising public works projects pushed by the central government and engaged in the work of issuing various types of licenses. There is criticism that the work of many of these bureaus overlaps that of local governments.
The Democratic Party of Japan calls for turning Japan from a centralized state into a state in which local government will have much stronger power than now. It also calls for cutting the personnel cost for national public servants by 20 percent. The reform of local bureaus of central government ministries may contribute to reducing the personnel cost.
The draft plan says that local bureaus managing 1st-class rivers or national highways should be taken over by a prefectural government if the rivers or highways start and end within one prefecture. As to public employment security offices, the plan says that the central and local governments should set up joint consultative bodies and run them jointly for about three years.
Central government ministries should not put up resistance to transfer of local bureaus just to maintain their vested interests. Local governments on their part should have a strong sense of responsibility and enough ability to properly run local bureaus they take over.