The nation’s socioeconomic system is in need of reform because information and policymaking is too concentrated in Tokyo, according to the new chief of the federation that represents industries in the Kansai region.

Yasuo Shingu, 71, appointed chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) a month ago, said in an interview with The Japan Times that the federation hopes to work on dispatching more information from the Kansai region so more people and companies will become familiar with Kansai and be attracted to the region. At the same time, he said the most effective way to boost regional economies is for the government to conduct deregulation and give more authority to each region to create and implement its own policies.

“Currently, everything from politics and economics to government functions, even influential business organizations, is based in Tokyo, so naturally it is more advantageous for companies to be in Tokyo,” said Shingu, who is also chairman of Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., one of the largest Osaka-based corporations. “Editors of the major Japanese media are also based in Tokyo, so they look at things only from Tokyo’s standpoint,” he claimed.

Creation of business opportunities in Kansai should be balanced with maintenance of its traditional features, such as its high concentration of historic cultural assets, Shingu said. If Osaka hosts the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, it will definitely help boost Kansai’s attempt to revitalize and become more appealing to the rest of the world, he said. “If Osaka wins the bid to become Japan’s candidate city, Kankeiren will make every effort to make the area appealing to other countries,” he said, noting that the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), headed by Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda, has played a major role in bringing the 2005 World Exposition to Aichi Prefecture. Toyota is based in the prefecture.

To foster new business opportunities, Kankeiren plans to launch a unique business matching system over the Internet in October. Under the system, registered companies anonymously disclose their specific needs for new business expansion or technological development in Japanese and English. Japanese and foreign entrepreneurs with ideas and technologies that match the needs can contact the organization, which then sets up chances for further negotiation.

This idea is one way of addressing the decline that many of the area’s traditional industries are experiencing. Osaka Prefecture’s share in the nation’s total product shipment, for example, is steadily decreasing, as the major industries in the region, such as electric appliances and textiles, have shifted factories overseas amid the yen’s rise.

“The amount of product shipment is certainly one way of measuring an economy, but I don’t want Kansai to be judged only by the shrinking shipment value,” Shingu said. He said he thinks it is important to stress that Kansai is an attractive place to visit and live, especially to people from other parts of Asia. “Tokyo may look appealing to foreign people, but we want to make Kansai the gateway to Japan for Asian people,” he said.

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