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Top>Research>Town planning, a representative example of public policy


Sukehiro Hosono

Sukehiro Hosono [profile]

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Town planning, a representative example of public policy

Sukehiro Hosono
Professor, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Dean of Graduate School of Public Policy
Areas of Specialization: Urban Policy and Public Policy

What is town planning?

The term "disappearing towns" is widespread, and local governments who are struggling with depopulation have a sense of impending crisis. There are also cries from around the country saying, "the heavy concentration of population in Tokyo is inexcusable and must somehow be stopped". However, the population decrease stems from two factors. One is the natural increase or decline decided by the number of births against deaths. The other is the societal increase and decrease decided by movement of population. Adding these two factors together determines the increase or decrease of a population. When many young people gather together, the marriage rate rises. When the marriage rate rises, it has a positive impact on the birth rate. So, how do young people gather together? If the region builds a school which young people feel attracted to, has jobs they will want to do after leaving school, and then fulfills their future dreams by having an easy-to-live, and attractive child-raising environment, everyone will gather. When that kind of community is built by "cooperating together", it is called town planning.

What is cooperating together?

The phrase "cooperating together" is important here. This is the area where public policy is active. In the graph of "officialdom = public", which is central government + local government, the problem within public territory (officialdom) is dealt with within public and the system where all other "people = citizens, residents?" have obeyed that has continued. Also, the intention of "officialdom" has moved along as "male logic". For example, there is usually a playground at the neighborhood park. However, there is a smoking space next to the swings. This means there is no consideration of the damage caused by passive smoking to the children and young mothers averse to smoking. When an earthquake strikes, the first evacuation centre is the gymnasium of local elementary and junior high schools. There usually isn't a long line for the men's restroom, but it is fact that long lines form for the women's restroom. This may be the result of the old argument that women are not very active outside. However, nowadays women are gaining higher academic qualifications and becoming more active in society. Instead, in the sphere of everyday life, through the experience of everyday experiences, I think women have their own views. It is a good idea to create a platform to reflect those female voices.

Do towns age with the citizens?

There is more. Our university is next to Tama New Town, Japan's largest housing estate. It has been 43 years since people started moving in. Working fathers who moved in when they were in their 30s are now elderly men over 70. The largest age bracket is the 65 and over generation. Their children, who were brought up well in New Town, have gradually moved into the centre of Tokyo due to work and marriage. Of course there are some cases, mainly daughters with close ties to their parents, have moved back to New Town "to be close to their parents", but for some reason or other, most cannot. Tama New Town was firmly packed with "young people's dreams" because it was a "new town" built by young designers, young power and fervor. The undulating geographical features were left untouched, and the hills were connected by stairs and bridges. However, as people aged, they became physically restricted when walking while carrying heavy things. There were no elevators in 4-5 story buildings built by public corporation in the early years. The people living there now are mostly elderly. Dwellings and age are deeply connected. One's choice of residence is not simply limited to the price of the house. "Where you want to live" changes depending on one's stage of life. There are certainly many elderly people who wish to live with younger people. However, there probably are not that many young people who hope to live with elderly people. I say "cooperating together", but from these cases you can understand how difficult it is to clear the high hurdles of the gap between male and female thinking, and their age difference.

What is public and private cooperation?

One more problem is cooperation between "public and private" entities. The other day, I delivered a lecture in areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake after being requested by an acquaintance. I was expecting town planning to have advanced a little in the 4 years since the disaster, and in low-lying areas engineering works such as mounding has seen progress. However, 40% of the people who affected by the disaster remain in temporary housing in a makeshift manner. I think the number of people remaining in temporary housing 2 years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake had almost reached zero. Of course, the number of affected people and scale of these two disasters cannot be compared. However, 4 years after the event, in some areas the rate of people leaving the area is not decreasing, but increasing. This is a grave problem. Why is this occurring? The population is an important factor in propping up the region. This is because it creates demand, supports supply, and possesses the power to open up the future. I don’t think that it is necessary to explain the importance of a young population which will burden the reconstruction that creates a population supporting tomorrow.

"People demand jobs and move". Moving forces and age are inversely proportional. Will there be a tomorrow for the areas where the youth have left? The Tohoku region is blessed with abundant nature. The region is definitely far from major cities, and for agriculture and fisheries related products, food processing businesses which conduct processing and add extra value are indispensable industries. By taking into account that 3 times the national average of agriculture and fisheries products produced from the region, and the distance to major cities, it can simply be expected that productivity in the food processing industry will also be close to 3 times that of the national average. Furthermore, if creation of the high added-value products is a success , it can be expected that productivity will be 4-5 times that of the national average. If that happens, it should not only extend to agriculture and fisheries industries, but also have a roll on effect for other industries such as tourism and distribution. However, unfortunately, productivity is only the "same" as the national average. It is a huge waste. The progress of engineering work has meant that reconstruction progress can be "seen" in everybody's eyes, creating the excuse that "people in the city hall are doing their jobs". However, should they invest their limited resources and money in engineering work as top priority? How long are governments intending to support the regional economy with the construction industry? When construction has finished and people are saying, "the young people have gone", it isn't a laughing matter. The sight of the ground level being raised in the expansive disaster area reminds me of a modern-day pyramid. King Khufu's pyramid was also a measure against unemployment. It gives me a gloomy feeling that human wisdom hasn't changed since ancient times. Also, I heard that none of the local residents want a "seawall" that will change the scenery. It is simple to say "public and private cooperation", but difficult to put into practice.

What is public and public cooperation?

"What is a prefecture?", the official at the city office of a disaster-hit town asked with a straight face. What is the three-layered structure of country, prefectures and municipalities supposed to do? This is the difficult question that always appears when the topic of "decentralization" comes up. While the Decentralization Law states that cooperation is required for the division of "leveling and supplementing", because hierarchical relationship deeply exists at an unchanged attitude, there is no stopping of strained relations. On top of that, because there are different interpretations of the law, municipalities look at their citizens in the disaster areas and choose to negotiate directly with the national government. This is not only a problem for disaster-hit areas. Because talking with the prefecture does not pay, many municipalities hope to negotiate directly with the national government. That is proof that they are improving their skill. The prefecture evaluate municipality’s activity and show generosity to them, and it would be good if they had a spirit that would induce progress and sublimation to a higher standard of the original job, but, unfortunately, most places are in a state of stagnation. Even now, they push inconveniences on the other, and they take good thing by force. Therefore, they can’t completely escape from the “bureaucratic frame of mind”. How the double and triple administrative can break free from the stupidity pinioning the financial difficulties is a question being asked today.

What is the mission of public policy?

How will we stop this fiscal laxity and realize effective government? How can we speedily extend an effective helping hand towards those asking for help in the public sphere? Supplementing and substituting economic and fiscal policies and social welfare policies is a prerequisite and it can also be said that classification from the viewpoint of "social welfare of every class of citizen", and proposing desirable combinations is the mission of public policy. Public policy is expected to create an ideal framework like the "political cycle" of policy formation, policy decisions, policy implementation and policy evaluation, that leads to the enlargement of social welfare. "Public" is an extremely "today" concept, that builds bridges between officialdom and the people, and officialdom and officialdom. That should be a systematic academic study, and at the same time I am involved in work that organizes and manages societies. I also share those struggles, through participation based learning (PBL) called "town planning", with students daily.

Sukehiro Hosono
Professor, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Dean of Graduate School of Public Policy
Areas of Specialization: Urban Policy and Public Policy
Sukehiro Hosono was born in 1949. He graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Keio University. He completed doctorate in town and regional planning at the Graduate School of Policy and Planning Sciences, University of Tsukuba in 1981. He has been professor at the Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University from 1995, and Graduate School of Public Policy from 2005. He is the President of the Japan Assocciation of Plannning and Public Management and is also Ex-President of the Japan Association of Public Policy Studies. He majors in industrial organization, public policy, community policy and urban policy. Major publications include The Smart Revolution of Town Planning (Jiji Press Publication Service) and Policy Analysis in Japan (Policy Press,Eds).