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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

EDITORIAL

Keep a close eye on Gov. Inose

Mr. Naoki Inose, who became vice governor of Tokyo in June 2007 under Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and served in that position until Nov. 29, 2012, won Tokyo's gubernatorial election Sunday by a landslide. He garnered a whopping 4,338,936 votes — the largest ever number of votes won by a candidate in the history of elections in Japan.

He collected some 3.37 million more votes than the runnerup, Mr. Kenji Utsunomiya, a former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, who called for abolishing nuclear power and strengthening social welfare measures.

Having won the trust of so many Tokyoites, Mr. Inose, as the new leader of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, must strive to improve the well-being of Tokyo residents and make Tokyo resilient to the massive earthquake that's expected to strike the capital in the future.

The graying of Tokyo's population is progressing rapidly — one of every four Tokyoites will be 65 years old or older in 2015 — and the metropolitan government's tax revenues have decreased since the financial crisis of 2008. Mr. Inose should speedily work out effective measures to cope with problems caused by the aging of the population from a long-range viewpoint.

In his election campaign, Mr. Inose stressed that he was handpicked by Mr. Ishihara to be his successor. But merely continuing Mr. Ishihara's policy direction and political style will not help to resolve the problems that Tokyo is facing.

One problem left over from Mr. Ishihara's governorship is the debt-ridden ShinGinko Tokyo bank, which the former governor set up in 2004 to help small and midsize companies. During the campaign Mr. Inose called for the bank's reconstruction, but already ¥140 billion in taxpayer funds has been poured into the money-losing bank. The public tap should be turned off.

Mr. Inose's election campaign pledges included merging the Tokyo Metro and Toei subways, replacing an aging thermal power plant on Tokyo Bay and hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. But he should also focus on areas where Mr. Ishihara accomplished little during his 13½-year tenure: welfare, employment and education.

Help must be provided to an increasing number of elderly people who live isolated lives. People shackled by poverty or suffering from physical and mental disabilities require better social welfare services. The regimentation of schoolteachers has made it difficult for them to fully utilize their ability to educate and help children. Young people, meanwhile, face difficulty in finding jobs.

During his campaign, Mr. Inose said he will "speed up reforms." But Tokyoites should not forget his behavior as a member of the advisory committee set up by a law under the Koizumi administration to reform the four semigovernmental corporations that constructed and managed expressways. He ended up supporting a proposal that gutted the mechanism intended to prevent the accumulation of debt from the construction of unnecessary expressways and to ensure the payment of such debt. (The central government adopted this version of the proposal.)

Mr. Inose's "bossy" attitude also reportedly makes his relations with metropolitan bureaucrats and assembly members difficult.

Tokyoites need to keep close tabs on Gov. Inose to ensure that he earnestly carry out measures aimed at enhancing their well-being.



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