EDITORIAL: Local Authority to Convert Farmland Is 1st Step in Decentralization Reform

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), February 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

EDITORIAL: Local Authority to Convert Farmland Is 1st Step in Decentralization Reform


The central government's new reform plan on decentralization should help local governments vitalize their economies and stop their populations from declining by allowing them to redevelop their communities in a freer manner.

Local governments have made a total of 535 requests for deregulation or the transfer of authority on official duties from ministries and agencies of the central government to local governments. The plan will approve 341, or 61 percent, of them. The government said a comprehensive bill to revise all related laws will be submitted to the current Diet session to satisfy those requests.

A main feature of the reform plan is the transfer of authority on permission to convert large tracts of farmland into land for industrial, commercial or housing use from the central government to local governments. The plan, if realized, will be the first decentralization reform in 14 years.

The reform plan will abolish prior consultations with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry required for prefectural governments to allow agricultural fields to be converted into land used for other purposes on the condition that the amount of land is two to four hectares. Consequently, prefectural governments will be able to give approval at their own discretion. As for cropland of more than four hectares, authority on permissions will also be transferred to prefectural governments on the condition that they must consult with the farm ministry. Municipal governments that meet certain standards will be granted the same authority as prefectural governments.

The reform plan will make it easier for local governments to use farmland according to the respective situations of their regions. It is important to realize the reform plan. The Association of Prefectural Governors and five other concerned organizations have welcomed the plan, saying it is a significant decision.

Local governments have expressed a great deal of frustration with the excessively long screening periods required after they submit such requests to the central government.

For example, Mie Prefecture submitted a request to the central government for the conversion of five hectares of farmland near expressway turnoffs to attract businesses there. …

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