Appendix 3 Guidelines for Promoting Administrative Reform of Local Government for the New Age of Local Autonomy
Ministry of Home Affairs
As we approach the 21st century, social and economic conditions are changing greatly： for example, the falling birthrate and increase in the elderly population, the continued lowering of borders, the diversification of people's sense of values, the growing concern for the environment and so on. Among these changes, the promotion of decentralization is reaching the stage of implementation and local autonomy is now about to enter a new age.
Under these circumstances, local authorities are expected to empower themselves in order to manage the changing social and economical conditions flexibly and resiliently under their own responsibility.
Local authorities also need to work for the improvement of residents' welfare, the promotion of a local identity and the vitality of local communities.
The long-term debts of national and local government amount to 476 trillion yen (at the end of FY1997). As can be seen in this financial crisis, administrative and financial conditions in Japan are very serious. Based on the "promotion of financial reform"(decision of cabinet June 3 1997),the national government decided to promote administrative and financial reform and the government is now strongly urging administrative and financial reform, including sweeping reform of ministries.
Local authorities have been promoting administrative and financial reforms in line with the "Guideline for local authorities to promote administrative and financial reforms (announcement of Vice-Minister for Home Affairs, October 7 1994) etc., but in view of the conditions mentioned above, administrative and financial reforms tackled from a new viewpoint are needed in order for local authorities to open up for themselves a new age of local autonomy and meet people's expectations.
For this purpose, the Ministry of Home Affairs local announces the following guidelines and urges authorities to add their own ideas to these guidelines and to be more progressive in their promotion of reforms.
The merger of municipalities, together with the administrative reforms of local government, is one of the main measures for the establishment of local government administrative systems： the national government is now planning measures to promote mergers, and the Ministry of Home Affairs requests municipalities to implement voluntary mergers in keeping with individual regional conditions and requests prefectures to give active support.