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The Cabinet approved a bill Tuesday to establish special zones in which progressive deregulatory measures would be introduced on a trial basis in a bid to buoy regional economies.

The government submitted the bill to the current extraordinary Diet session the same day in the hope that it will be passed by the end of the year.

A total of 426 proposals have already been put forward by municipalities nationwide. The government is accepting additional ones through Jan. 15.

Yoshitada Konoike, state minister in charge of the special zones, indicated the same day that the government would continue to consider requests by local governments.

Asked about the government’s decision to bar stock companies from operating schools and hospitals, Konoike replied, “I myself do not feel comfortable (with the decision).” The decision was made in response to strong resistance from related government ministries.

The special zones bill calls for making exemptions to 14 laws, which would take effect beginning in April. The prime minister will have the right to authorize proposals by local governments to set up the special zones.

Plans on the drawing board include allowing private firms to cheaply rent land and other facilities from state-run universities, and leasing public port facilities to companies. Measures to greatly ease regulations over education and agriculture are also being considered.

To ensure transparency in the process of selecting the zones, the bill obliges government ministries and agencies to swiftly respond to queries from municipalities.

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