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Governments, communities and individuals at odds on future

Date Posted: 2004-03-11

Local government agencies are feeling the effects of a weak economy, as the national government slashes budget subsidies.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is calling for reform, including privatizing agencies such as the land and transportation ministries and the post office, as a way to save money. He’s asking 53 cities and towns in Okinawa to undertake programs to change their way of doing business.

System reform is being met negatively by most cities, towns and villages, who fear greater loss of revenues. The local governments fear merging municipalities into larger entities would further reduce the available money.

Thus far, 70% of residents polled are opposed to changing the current governmental systems, even though the new budgets effective April 1 will cut deep into their revenue pools.

Nursing care insurance has been reduced 50%, school lunch and preschool foods and facilities budgets have also been cut 50%. Aid to children programs are projected to be cut at least 50%.

Cities, towns and villages are crying they don’t have any more money, and cannot meet minimum required services. They all indicate they’ll have to cut their workers’ salaries, and in some cases, reduce staff numbers themselves.

Mayors say the headaches are increasing, and that there’s no solution. They worry they’ll soon have to lay off or fire workers.

Zamami Village’s elementary and junior high school buildings are old and falling apart, having been built more than 23 years ago. The salt from the nearby ocean, together with typhoon damages, are causing buildings to crumble, resulting in some areas being put off limits because of the danger to children.

There’s no money to make repairs, and officials say they don’t know what to do since the Prefecture and Central Governments won’t help.

Gushikami Village has similar problems, and no money to fix them. A children’s swimming pool must be moved to make way for a village road project, but there is no money to replace the pool.

The Prefecture and Central Governments say local communities must change, and become more attuned to budget problems. There is no money to give, they say. But residents aren’t listening.

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