Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama says that the prefecture’s financial woes left him on the verge of despair but that talks with the national government over reform measures are continuing.”I felt desperate, at times, because the situation was so bad,” Yokoyama said. “But we must do what we can to turn the situation around, and we have to make decisions on what kinds of projects and services need to be cut or postponed.”Because of large-scale public works projects carried out following the collapse of the bubble economy and a declining tax base, Osaka Prefecture faces a budget deficit of 60 billion yen in fiscal 1998 and a 200 billion yen deficit in fiscal 1999, the worst prefectural deficit in the nation.In his first news conference of 1998, Yokoyama touched on the economy, the environment and the further development of the Rinku Town complex. “The recent global warming conference in Kyoto has raised concerns about emissions of greenhouse gases, and it is important that Osaka Prefecture also make efforts to reduce emissions,” the governor said.Regarding the troubled Rinku Town project, which has lost nearly 3 billion yen and for which the prefecture has an estimated 180 billion yen in long-term bonds outstanding, Yokoyama said he remains confident that it will develop further and attract foreign companies. Last year, a group of Taiwanese businesses announced plans to move to Rinku Town, but otherwise, the prefecture’s efforts to attract foreign investors have met with little success.

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