Make better rural life a priority: Tanigaki

by Yumi Wijers-Hasegawa

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki promised Tuesday to place priority on revitalizing rural areas and creating a society where people who work hard can lead untroubled lives if he becomes prime minister by winning the Sept. 20 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election.

Tanigaki told reporters rural communities are rapidly losing their vitality as their depopulation accelerates and young people leave for large cities.

“Small communities also know they can no longer rely on public spending (to stimulate the economy),” he said. “We have to find measures to make rural communities more attractive places to live.”

To do this, Tanigaki proposed a mutual assistance program in which rural residents offer time to help others care for elderly people or children in exchange for similar assistance in the future. This will help create strong community bonds, he said.

Senior citizens can also play a vital role by training the youth for jobs in rural businesses and by helping preserve regional culture and traditions, thereby enhancing community value, he said.

“We might not need to hold onto the concept of retirement anymore, when so many people are active at an older age,” Tanigaki, 61, said.

He said regional universities can also help educate the youth and give them reasons to stay and work in rural areas.

While the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, Tanigaki said Japan should aim to create a society where people who work hard can lead their lives in peace. “A society that aims to change need not be cutthroat.”

Since declaring his candidacy, Tanigaki has made three main pledges: to revitalize rural communities, to raise the consumption tax to curb the ballooning fiscal deficit, and to improve relations with Japan’s neighbors, which have been strained in part by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine.