Governors’ view of revival

At their annual conference held in Takamatsu on July 19 and 20, the governors of Japan’s 47 prefectures adopted an interim report on their Japan Resuscitation Plan, which presents their view on Japan’s overall direction in future economic development and ways to cope with expected massive disasters.

Gov. Keiji Yamada of Kyoto, head of the National Governors’ Association, said that the governors play an important role in creating a hope for the nation and made clear their determination to face up squarely to a crisis and push Japan’s resuscitation following the 3/11 disasters. His statement is encouraging. It is hoped that the governors will flesh out the report so that it will contain projects and proposals that are concrete and convincing enough to get support from the central government and the public.

The governors expressed a sense of crisis over the effects of the 3/11 disasters as well as the decline and graying of the Japanese population, and stressed the importance of developing a new vision for Japan and making Japan resilient to massive earthquakes expected to occur in the Nankai trough — a 900-km subduction zone located off the Pacific coast from the Tokai region to Shikoku — and close to Tokyo.

Specifically they called for building expressways along the Sea of Japan coast and Shinkansen superexpress train lines from Hokkaido to Kyushu and Shikoku, constructing hub ports along the Sea of Japan coast, turning existing airports into hub airports and building gas pipelines linking Japan with Eurasia. They hope that the projects will contribute to forming strong networks in Japan that will endure massive natural disasters.

They envisage the projects helping to form new “national axes” — the Sea of Japan axis along the Sea of Japan coast and the new Pacific coast axis from Tokyo to Shikoku and Kyushu — along with the existing Pacific coast axis from Tokyo to Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

In writing the final report, the governors should be careful not to include wasteful large-scale public works projects. They should discern what kinds of public works are really meaningful in coping with large-scale natural disasters and reviving local economies.

They called on the central government to work out a new policy to move residential areas to highland areas and improve evacuation areas to prepare for large-scale tsunami and to enact a special law to cope with the effects of expected massive quakes. The central government should positively respond to their call.

The governors were divided over nuclear power generation. The important thing will be how prefectures hosting nuclear power plants will create a thriving local economy that does not have to rely on such plants.