One of the structural problems of today’s Japan is that because many of its authorities and financial resources are controlled by the national government, local governments cannot take the initiative in developing and implementing dynamic policies. As a result, municipal governments do not make efforts to increase their income through appropriate investment and have instead been engaged over many years in unproductive local administrative activities that depend on subsidies. After reorganizing local governments to a larger scale through the decisive achievement of the abolition of prefectures and establishment of dōs, it will be essential to transfer the central government’s financial resources and authorities, along with its personnel, to local governments.
1. Review Role-Sharing between Central, Dō, and Basic Municipal Governments from a Zero-based Perspective!
Japan under the new Dō system should review the roles to be performed by the central, dō, and basic municipal governments from a zero-based perspective, looking beyond the current responsibilities assumed by the central, prefectural, and municipal governments.
The basic concept behind the Dō system is that the basic municipal government is responsible for administrative services in general (the principle of proximity) and, to complement these, the dō government is in charge of implementing policies affecting an extensive area and other legitimate activities (the principle of subsidiarity). Meanwhile, the central government assumes charge of foreign affairs, defense, and monetary policies, which are difficult for dō governments to assume.
In consolidating administrative authorities into basic municipalities, a certain level of scale is necessary and therefore the merger and consolidation of municipalities must have been completed in advance. After the consolidation of authorities into basic municipalities, roles that have been assumed by prefectures will be reduced, enabling the wide-area administration under the Dō system. Newly created dō governments will thus be able to conduct economic and administrative management at the level of those of a medium-sized country from a global perspective.
Through these efforts, the overlapping of administrative roles and responsibilities among the national, prefectural, and municipal governments due to various political and historical reasons will be eliminated. This shift from overlapping to splitting will remove the involvement of the national government, which will improve the transparency of local government policies, increase freedom in decision-making, and strengthen external accountability.
2. Role Sharing: Administrative Services by Basic Municipal Governments, Strategic Decision-Making by Dō Governments, and Global Competition and Cooperation by the Central Government!
The table on the right shows specifically how roles will be shared among the national and local governments based on the following concepts:
(1) What can be done locally should be done by local governments: 1) Basic municipal governments are responsible for general administrative services; 2) taking advantage of economies of scale, dō governments are in charge of activities to which it is reasonable to apply the wide-area administration method; 3) the central government assumes limited duties, including foreign affairs, trade, defense, border control, development of national strategies, and establishment and maintenance of standards that need to be unified nationally.
(2) Shift from “overlapping” to “splitting”: Irresponsible systems resulting from overlapping administration between national and local governments should be entirely eliminated to enable local governments to implement policies on their own responsibility by splitting administrative responsibilities.
3. Reorganize Ministries and Agencies of the Central Government and Transfer Personnel to Local Governments in Parallel with the Abolition of Prefectures and Establishment of Dōs!
The most important point of the abolition of prefectures and establishment of dōs is to increase the scale of basic municipal and dō governments and enhance freedom in decision-making of local governments through the transfer of authorities and personnel in order to vitalize regional areas and eventually strengthen the competitiveness of Japan as a whole. On the other hand, another aim is the transformation of the central government into a small but strong government by transferring all duties that can be implemented at a local level, along with competent personnel, to local governments and limiting the responsibilities assumed by the central government to foreign affairs, defense, and other critical areas.
A significant transfer of the responsibilities of the national government to local governments will improve the current situation wherein Diet members are constantly occupied in responding to lobbyists from among their constituents. Instead, it will enable politicians and bureaucrats of the central government to dedicate themselves to fulfilling their duties related to national strategies, foreign affairs, and defense. As a result, the competitiveness of Japan can be enhanced.
If the drastic transfer of responsibilities to local governments is successfully completed, the functions of central ministries and agencies and the number of personnel required will be significantly reduced. In addition, most of the duties assumed by ministries responsible for handling government business will be transferred to local governments. Local agencies of national ministries and agencies should be entirely abolished and their duties transferred to local governments.