Bill on deregulation zones is beginning to take shape

A government-sponsored bill designates 16 types of enterprises — from kindergartens to corporate farms — for special deregulation zones as part of government efforts to fight deflation and revitalize local-level economies.

Official sources said the government may expand the list of enterprises that would be allowed in the proposed special zones before the bill goes to the Diet.

The government plans to submit the bill to the Diet on Nov. 8, and hopes to put the law into force by April 1.

One of the enterprises local authorities would be allowed to run in the deregulation zones is preschool education.

Local authorities would be allowed to set up “special education zones” where they could combine nurseries and kindergartens, and children as young as 2 could be admitted.

Under current regulations, children must be at least 3 before their parents can enroll them in kindergarten.

The bill would also allow municipal authorities operating special education zones to hire foreign teachers and education experts of their own choice. Currently, this power lies with prefectural governments.

Apart from education, the initiative calls for simplifying the procedures required for establishing and modifying large-scale retail stores, greater privatization of agricultural industries and introducing corporate management in special nursing homes.

It would allow municipal governments to lease port facilities to the private sector.

The bill also calls for public universities to rent out their research facilities to the private sector at affordable rates.

Corporations would be allowed to run farms in special zones.

The national government has attracted 426 proposals for special zones from municipalities and the private sector in the first round of applications that closed at the end of August. The deadline for the second round of proposals is Jan. 15.

The prime minister’s office would be responsible for authorizing the special zones.

As part of decentralization efforts, the bill requires prefectural governments to consult with municipal authorities when they plan to set up special deregulation zones.