The government’s committee for promoting devolution has laid down the basic ideas for the reform and the government has set up the headquarters to push it. The committee is scheduled to report to the government over the next two years. It is hoped that the committee will come up with proposals that will strengthen local government in terms of both power and finance, and that the government will sincerely implement them.
As a matter of principle, the committee stresses that the idea of centralization is outmoded and calls for strengthening municipalities. The committee thinks that municipalities should be treated as the core units of local government. As a first step, the committee will review the division of roles between the central and local governments, especially in the fields close to local residents. Redundancy between the work of the central and local governments is to be removed, and regional offices of the central government are to be abolished or scaled down.
About 210,000, or 70 percent, of the 330,000 national public servants work in these regional offices. It is estimated that by transferring the work of these offices to local governments, the central government workforce could be slashed by up to 100,000.
The committee believes that not only local governments’ administrative power but also their legislative power should be increased. It calls for giving them the power to change what is written in the various central government and ministry ordinances within the bounds of relevant laws.
But without transferring tax-revenue sources from the central government to local governments, the power of local governments cannot be strengthened. The committee does not mention the transfer in numerical terms.
At present, local governments are entitled to 40 percent of the nation’s total tax revenues. The association of prefectural governors, that of mayors, and four other organizations demand that the percentage be raised to 50 percent. It is hoped that the committee will proceed with its discussions by carefully listening to the voices of local governments.
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