Public hearings on IR implementation bill begin

Public hearings on the IR Implementation Bill began on Thursday with the first event held in the Cabinet Office building complex in central Tokyo.

This inaugural two-hour hearing was tightly controlled and reflected very little of the passion and controversy that exists over this issue among the public at large.

Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii gave a very brief introduction at the start of the event before retiring from the room. There were apparently no other politicians in attendance at the hearing, which was conducted by a handful of central government bureaucrats.

All questions were fielded by Makoto Nakagawa, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of Integrated Resort Regime Promotion. Nakagawa appeared to be in full command of the material, not referring to notes as he gave his specific answers.

About 15 individual members of the general public and those representing private interests were given an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Some were opponents of the IR legislation, but a larger number were concerned with learning further details about the implementation of the IR project.

Very little new information emerged from the hearing. Most requests for policy details not already included in the Experts’ Report were answered by some variation on “that is now being studied.”

Immediately after the event, AGB asked one of the Japanese participants his opinion of the hearing. He expressed disappointment, commenting that it seemed to him that everything had already been decided by the government and that the hearing was little more than a formality.

Eight more public hearings are scheduled to be held around the country, concluding on August 29. It is not clear whether or not the regional events will become more contentious than the low-energy inaugural hearing in Tokyo.

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