• Jiji

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The final reorganization plan for the city of Osaka was approved Friday at a panel meeting of municipal and prefectural officials and assembly members.

The plan to reorganize Osaka into four special wards on Jan. 1, 2025, was approved by a majority vote with support from political group Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) and members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

“The approval of the final plan is just a passing point. It’s the public who makes the decision,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters after the meeting.

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said, “The understanding of citizens for the plan is deepening.”

“As a politician, I feel blessed to be able to come this far,” he said. “I’ll accept the result of the referendum gravely.”

The final plan will be submitted soon to the internal affairs ministry by the statutory panel, which was set up by the prefecture and its capital.

The panel will adopt an agreement on the plan after hearing opinions from the ministry. The agreement is expected to be approved by Osaka’s prefectural and municipal assemblies around September.

A second referendum on the so-called Osaka metropolis plan is likely to take place as early as Nov. 1 if the timetable is not affected by the coronavirus or other reasons.

At the panel meeting, an Osaka Ishin member stressed that the plan is important, saying that a system to eliminate administrative redundancy is necessary to ensure the growth of Osaka.

Meanwhile, a municipal assembly member from the conservative Liberal Democratic Party opposed the plan, saying, “What we should do right now is to prepare for changes in society after the coronavirus crisis and not the Osaka metropolis plan.”

A member of the Japanese Communist Party agreed, saying the plan “is nothing but harmful.”

The final plan stipulates that its goal is to eliminate administrative redundancy to improve city functions by integrating the operations of the municipal and prefectural governments. It aims to make the city of Osaka “the second capital” of Japan.

Under the plan, the city will be divided into four special wards —Yodogawa, Kita, Chuo and Tennoji — based on fiscal circumstances and future population estimates.

New office buildings for the special wards will not be established for the time being. Instead, the city’s 24 local offices currently in service will be used to provide administrative services for residents.

Administrative operations directly affecting residents, such as welfare, health and education services and elections for the wards’ mayors, will be handled by the special wards.

The Osaka Prefectural Government will be in charge of work related to the entire prefecture’s development, prosperity and safety, such as responses to disasters and transportation infrastructure projects covering more than one special ward.

The previous referendum was held in May 2015 under the leadership of then-Mayor Toru Hashimoto and was designed to divide the city into five special wards.

The plan was rejected by a vote of 694,844 to 705,585.

Both Matsui and Yoshimura said the next referendum “will be the last.”

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