The government formally adopted on Tuesday a basic policy on the creation of special deregulation zones, looking to minimize interference from governmental offices.
Under the policy, a system will be established at the Cabinet Secretariat to deal with complaints from municipalities that believe they are being pressured by national ministries and agencies, officials said.
National public offices also will be prohibited from imposing any conditions on activities carried out in the special deregulation zones aside from those set under the government policy itself.
The process of designating special zones will be handled specifically by the Cabinet. Once these zones have been designated, national public offices will be called upon to accept these decisions, the policy stipulates.
The special zones will be established across the country in line with deregulation measures advocated by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Business regulations in the zones will be relaxed in sectors such as agriculture, retail sales and social welfare.
The basic policy is expected to be adopted by the Cabinet on Friday.
Amendments of laws relating to the zones, which were endorsed last year, are expected to be approved during the ordinary Diet session that convened Monday and is scheduled to run through June 18.
According to government officials, more than 1,000 special zone ideas have been submitted by municipalities and private-sector firms.
The government plans to organize hearings in March before accepting applications over a two-week period beginning April 1.
It will unveil the first group of ideas to be approved by the end of April, the officials said.
The government will accept similar applications on three other occasions through next January, giving municipalities more opportunities to apply, they said.
Koizumi welcomed the special zone applications, saying they reflect the enthusiasm of municipalities and private businesses to push for reforms.
Regarding a controversial proposal that would give stock companies permission to run schools and hospitals within special zones, he said, “We would like to consider the proposal in a way to encourage people at the local level and implement the idea.”
Calls for stock companies to be allowed to enter the education and medical sectors initially met with strong opposition from related ministries and experts. It was claimed that commercialism is foreign to the management of such institutions.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has since eased its stance on allowing stock companies to enter the education sector.
The opposition of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, however, remains intact.
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