The Liberal Democratic Party and one of its two allies, the New Conservative Party, plan to start adjusting opinions within the ruling bloc on freezing the government’s plan to relocate the functions of the central government outside Tokyo, party sources said.
Senior LDP officials have asked the National Land Agency, which is in charge of the plan, to consider freezing it, the sources added Friday.
In consideration of the sluggish economy, the two parties decided that the plan, which requires a huge budget, should be included in the government’s economic policy review, in which many public works projects are being drastically cut back, the sources said.
However, discussions on the plan are expected to meet stiff opposition from New Komeito, the third member of the coalition, and from candidate cities outside Tokyo, according to the sources.
Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone on Monday proposed shelving the relocation plan.
“Freezing it would not counter the Diet’s decision on the relocation,” Nakasone said. Earlier that day, Environment Agency chief Yoriko Kawaguchi also spoke out against the plan.
Her comments followed controversial remarks made last week by Construction Minister Chikage Ogi opposing the plan to relocate the capital functions. The government should instead use the money to improve Tokyo’s living standards, Ogi said.
The plan, which aims to relocate the Diet and the central government’s administrative and judicial functions as a measure to promote decentralization, is estimated by the government to cost more than 12 trillion yen. Some experts say that it would cost 20 trillion yen.
The Diet approved the relocation plan in 1990. In December, an advisory panel named three areas as candidate sites for the relocation — one comprising Tochigi and Fukushima prefectures and the other consisting of Gifu and Aichi prefectures.
The panel also recommended an area in western Japan grouping Mie, Shiga, Kyoto and Nara prefectures as a third choice, on condition that a new high-speed transportation network is completed there in the future.
The Cabinet approved the panel recommendation. The Lower House panel on the issue adopted a resolution in May urging the government to choose one of the three within two years.
The construction of the new capital would begin sometime after 2004.
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