Measures for special zones get green light

Kyodo, JIJI

The government adopted deregulation measures Friday for its “strategic special zones” proposal, including the relaxing of building regulations to promote urban redevelopment ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The special zones are a key item in the package of pro-growth deregulation measures Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government adopted in June.

“There is no end” to the government’s regulatory reform efforts, Abe told a meeting of his Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization, where details of the special zone scheme were adopted.

“Further reform efforts should be made aggressively so that we can create the world’s best country for business,” he said.

The government aims to submit the bills needed to create the special zones to the Diet in early November, with an eye to enacting them before the extraordinary session ends in early December.

The government is expected to decide where to set up the special zones in early 2014, sources said.

The government panel said Friday that regulations for building high-rise apartments mainly in the central parts of big cities will be eased, and rented accommodations will allowed to be used as hotels for tourists.

Special zones aimed at spurring corporate investment through deregulation and tax incentives are to be created in Tokyo as well as Osaka and central Aichi Prefecture.

Other deregulation steps to debut in such zones will let private firms operate public schools, let experts without teaching licenses teach classes, expand the scope of treatment that can be administered by non-Japanese doctors and nurses, facilitate the use of foreign drugs and increase the number of hospital beds.

Abe said at a meeting of the council that the government “managed to sort out reforms necessary to create international cities that can compete with other cities in the world.”

The government will submit to the Diet a set of bills to launch the zones in early November and decide on their exact locations by early next year.

The government panel, however, did not approve a plan to relax the rules for firing workers, as sought by business circles, and decided to extend contract lengths for part-time and contract workers nationwide to increase their job security.

To help clarify employment rules for firms doing business in the special zones, the government will establish guidelines and consulting centers on labor issues.

The council also held off on easing the requirements for private companies that want to enter the farming sector.

In the zones, restaurants can be set up on agricultural land and in historical buildings, such as old samurai residences, and can be transformed into accommodation facilities as well.