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Critics blast expensive Town Hall meetings

Date Posted: 2006-12-08

A town hall meeting in Naha cost the taxpayers more than Y16 million last year, drawing criticism from watchdog agencies.

The government announced it spent 16 million for the October 2005 meeting to discuss judicial reform, a cost that totaled 67,000 per attendee. Another 12 million was spent, the government documents detailed, on a similar town hall meeting in Miyazaki City on mainland Japan earlier in 2005. A total of 242 citizens participated in the Naha City meeting, while 212 attended the one in Miyazaki.

Critics point out the government contracted larger halls than needed, both seating more than 500 despite expectations participation would be much less. Documents released also show the government used a far larger number of staff members than necessary for the presentations.

The government has suspended the town hall meetings in the wake of criticism it spiked the audience with pro-government individuals spouting the government thinking on planned education system reforms.

The Naha town hall meeting focused on reforming the criminal justice trial system scheduled to change in 2009. The government spent three million yen for the hall, another 1.9 million for guest speakers, and still another 1.2 million for its staff.

Earlier town hall meetings in Okinawa and other prefectures were staged at significantly lower costs. An official accounting of those sessions showed the government spent 67 million for seven meetings in 2003~2005, a cost of 25,000 for each of the 2,721 attending.

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