Vague plan for Osaka metro

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto in mid-February explained his pet idea of creating an Osaka metropolitan government to the local government system panel of the internal affairs ministry. His explanation was still rather vague. He should present a concrete idea as soon as possible so that Osaka city and prefecture residents can study the plan and form their own judgment about his idea.

In the past, he called for creating an “Osaka-to” government by integrating the Osaka city and prefectural governments to carry out efficient wide-area administrative work and services. This idea also called for turning the current 24 wards of Osaka City into eight or nine special wards to concentrate on providing services to residents. But in the material he distributed to the panel, Mr. Hashimoto dropped the word “Osaka-to.” Instead, he proposed creating a “new wide-area autonomous body” and “new wards.”

He called on the panel to set up a system under which he or other local government heads with a similar idea could flexibly demarcate new wards by considering local situations. He thus opposed the central government’s imposing rigid standards for creation of new wards.

While Mr. Hashimoto’s call is understandable, he should realize that his presentation lacks clarity compared with what he proposed in the past. Mr. Hashimoto reiterated that the existence of the Osaka city government and the Osaka prefectural government has caused “massive administrative waste.”

According to his plan, each newly created ward would have an elected mayor and an assembly like the current ward system in Tokyo. But his explanation was somewhat contradictory. He also said the new wards would not be a carbon copy of Tokyo’s wards. Still, he said, like Tokyo, revenues from the fixed property tax would be distributed to newly created wards by taking into consideration their financial conditions.

The Osaka mayor said it will take about a year for him to come up with the demarcation of new wards. But he should make clear as soon as possible what kinds of benefits — in terms of economic effects and administrative services — he would like to bring to Osaka city and prefecture residents and what kind of institutional design he will adopt for the new governmental system to achieve his desired goal.

He also should make clear the disadvantages and problems his plan might bring to local residents.