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Okinawa municipalities discuss of merger into larger unit

Date Posted: 2003-01-31

Prompted by chronic fiscal deficits that are the world’s largest, the Japanese government is pushing its more than 3,000 municipalities to merge into a total of 1,000 larger units. The move is expected to save administration money. while streamlining services tomake them more cost effective and easier for residents to use.

Although several municipalities have already merged, the biggest obstacle has been to get residents to realize the merits. In Okinawa the talks among eight municipalities that include Naha City, Haebaru Town, and Tokashiki, Zamami, Aguni, Tonaki, and Kita and Minami Daito Villages, have been in process since April last year. Representatives of all eight met earlier this week and agreed to form an arbitrary committee to iron out problems that may arise on the way to the merger.

The mergers must be finalized by March 2005. Any municipality that has not completed the merger into larger units will then lose all subsidy money from the central government.

Along with the move to larger municipal units, the government is pushing the use of information technologies. Increased use of IT would eliminate people’s going to city offices in person to obtain resident certificates, tax reports, birth and marriage certificates and myriads of other documents required in Japanese daily life. Such services would be available from any home computer. With only a little over two years left, local officials are looking at a busy future.

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