The assemblies of seven prefectures in and around the Kinki region have approved a plan to form a federation for the purpose of cooperating on certain administrative matters. Home affairs minister Yoshihiro Katayama is expected to approve the establishment of the federation in about a month in accordance with a provision of the Local Autonomy Law.

There have been federations in the past at the municipal level to do such jobs as jointly administering nursing care services. This is the first broad prefectural-level federation.

Five prefectures in the Kinki region — Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga and Wakayama — and two nearby prefectures — Tottori and Tokushima — will form the federation. Nara Prefecture has decided not to join, saying the federation’s work will duplicate that of the prefectural government.

Since the seven prefectures have a combined population of some 21 million — about twice Tokyo’s population — the federation could exercise strong political influence. The governors of the seven prefectures also hope that the federation will serve as a driving force to revitalize the Kansai-area economy, which has lost ground to the Tokyo economy.

For the time being the seven prefectures will cooperate across and beyond their borders in seven fields, including medical services, disaster-preparedness measures, promotion of tourism and cultural activities, and environmental protection. The prefectural governors together will serve as an executive organ.

For example, they will work out a disaster-preparedness plan for a large-scale earthquake over a wide area, operate helicopters to carry emergency patients, develop tourist resources to attract more foreigners, and improve the efficiency of water use from Lake Biwa and the Yodo River system. The federation plans to take over the functions of central government ministries in the future — an important step in furthering devolution.

The bottom line is that the federation should quickly and correctly respond to the needs of local residents. It should not become an administrative entity that is removed from the public and ignores the historical and cultural characteristics of any area.

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