OSAKA – Of the many Japanese autumn traditions, one not found in tourist guidebooks is the drawing up of wish lists by influential business organizations from Hokkaido to Okinawa.
It’s a time of year when corporate leaders present requests to ruling party members for local pet projects and dreams requiring national policy decisions and huge amounts of central government funding. They ask for Diet deliberations over the following months on their ideas and the inclusion of at least some of them in the next year’s fiscal year budget, which starts April 1.
Earlier this month, six major business lobbies in western Japan that dominate the economies of the Hokuriku, Kansai, Chubu, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions, presented their requests to Finance Minister Taro Aso, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii, minister of state for regional revitalization Hiroshi Kajiyama, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
The list included calls for not only restarting nuclear power plants in western Japan as quickly as possible, but also for clarifying the government’s policy on building even more.
Elsewhere, they said Tokyo needed to expand financial assistance to local small and midsize enterprises to ensure they can compete overseas under international trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
One way to do this, the leaders said, is by supporting small businesses in western Japan that are involved in agriculture and food production and trying to gain more overseas customers. There were calls for Tokyo to offer specific support to firms producing sake and other alcoholic beverages.
To increase local tourism, business groups from Kansai and Hokuriku are calling for Tokyo’s approval and financial support to ensure the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line is extended to Osaka by 2030. There were also calls for additional runways to be constructed at Nagoya’s Chubu airport and at Fukuoka airport.
They also want money for expanding the number of immigration and customs officials and facilities at western Japan’s ports and extending their hours of operation. Additional support for regional efforts to promote local culture, history, ecology, sports, and medical tourism is also being sought.
“While Japan’s economy has seen a gentle recovery under Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe’s fiscal and monetary policies, there is much material for concern of the future direction given the labor shortage, the difficulty in raising consumer spending, and the protectionism of the United States,” the western Japan business groups said in their statement to the central government.
“The proposals of the six business groups are to help realize western Japan’s goal of having a gross regional product of ¥300 trillion by 2020 and attracting 60 million foreign visitors,” the statement added.
For Kansai and Hokuriku, completion of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line to Osaka is of particular importance. While official plans call for the route to open in 2046, the two main business groups agreed at a meeting on Nov. 8 to step up pressure on the Abe administration to make sure the line is completed much earlier.
“If the funding is there, our thinking is that the route could be opened by 2030, and that it’s necessary to strengthen efforts to press the central government (to make this happen),” Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Masayoshi Matsumoto told reporters after the meeting.