‘Do-shu’ system details missing

As the campaign for the July 21 Upper House election swings into full mode, a few political parties are calling for introduction of a “do-shu” system, which would divide the nation into several administrative regions with their own regional government. Prefectural governments would be abolished.

But the parties have not discussed why a do-shu system is necessary, what it would be like and how to build it.

What’s worse, some politicians are trying to give the impression that a do-shu system will help solve many difficult problems Japan is facing. But it should not be talked about lightly because its implementation would mean a complete change in Japan’s system of governance and could have serious consequences, such as weakening the nation’s social welfare system.

The Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party include the institutionalization of a do-shu system in their campaign promises. It is often said that such a system will contribute to accelerating decentralization of power, increasing efficiency in local governments and revitalization of local economies. But political parties and politicians calling for its introduction are talking about it too hastily and lightly without even trying to delve into such questions as how abolition of prefectural governments will affect people’s lives and how much cost and time it will take to establish the new system.

They have yet to give full explanations on what problems the current prefectural system has and how a do-shu system will resolve problems. Talking about introducing a do-shu system without discussing it in detail is irresponsible and will lower the morale of local government officials and workers who are making strenuous efforts to improve public services for local residents.

If a do-shu system is introduced, the danger will arise of inequality finding its way into public services provided to local residents. This will be especially problematic if it affects social welfare services, and should be adequately discussed.

There is no guarantee that a do-shu system will promote the autonomy of local residents. Since the distance between residents and regional governments will be much larger than that between them and prefectural governments, it would be difficult to have citizens’ opinions and requests fully heard. It will also become much easier to control local residents under a do-shu system because regional governments would have much more power than prefectural governments. If a person representing a particular interest group or a particular central government ministry becomes the head of a regional government, local residents will likely fall under the control of such a group or a ministry.

Voters cannot be too careful about considering the wisdom of introducing a do-shu system. They also should be wary of the bashing of public servants. As the 3/11 disasters proved, their work is indispensable in emergency situations. It also must not be forgotten that the percentage of public servants and workers of public corporations in Japan’s working population was 6.7 percent in 2011, much lower the OECD countries’ average of 15 percent. Any shrinkage of the number of public servants below a certain level will lead to a degradation of public services and negatively impact the lives of citizens.