Yoichi Masuzoe graduated from the Faculty of Law of Tokyo University in 1971. He started his career as a scholar in international politics, appearing on many radio shows and the like, and becoming very popular. In 1989 he established the Masuzoe Institute of Political Economy, before starting his career in politics in 2001 when he became a Member of the House of Councillors (serving two terms). In addition to being a member of the Budget Committee, he chaired or was a Director of numerous other committees, before being appointed Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare in August 2007. He was elected Tokyo Governor in February 2014.
FIAJ： Over a year has passed since your inauguration as the Governor of Tokyo in February last year. What is your current vision for the development of Tokyo?
I have been stating publically that I will “make Tokyo the best city in the world”. I wish to make Tokyo such an attractive city that people looking back at their lives will think “I’m really glad to have been born, lived and spent my golden years here”, or “I really want to visit Tokyo” whether for pleasure or on business.
Tokyo is a very convenient city to live in. It is well known for its safety, good environment and convenient transportation network. The tap water is delicious and great dishes from all over the world are available here. We will continue to enhance such charms of Tokyo.
With regard to welfare, low birthrate is an issue to be overcome, while the city needs to be considerate to seniors as well. As real-estate is rather expensive, we plan to utilize parks in order to accommodate childcare centers and rebuild public housing to create more space for other welfare facilities. We are also working on training the personnel needed as nurses and care givers. On the environment side, we will make use of hydrogen energy. Taking the opportunity of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020, we aim at the early realization of a hydrogen-based society utilizing as much as possible this clean energy, through hydrogen cars and the like.
To ensure an abundant life style, we must accelerate economic activities, which will in turn strengthen the economy of Tokyo and eventually of Japan. Within the entire industry, we especially focus on fields with high added value. We will press forward to become a hub for life-science businesses, starting with the pharmaceutical industries development, making use of the concentration of associated companies in the city.
FIAJ： Within your plans, how does your “Initiatives for the Tokyo Global Financial Center“, announced in July last year, fit in?
Activating the economy and creating wealth are necessary to secure the funding needed to support our policies intended to make Tokyo the number one city in the world and provide its resident with a prosperous lifestyle. Among others, I consider the field of finance of particular importance as it is the lifeblood of any economy. Tokyo was one of three financial centers in the world, along with New York and London, before our 20-year deflation pushed back its position.
That said, Tokyo is still strong thanks to its high concentration of financial firms. Using this advantage and the hosting of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, we will reclaim our former position, making Tokyo a financial center gathering professionals, information and funds from all over the world. As the nation’s “engine”, Tokyo’s renewed status as a financial center will revive not only the city, but also the economy of the entire nation. In essence, these are our Initiatives for the Tokyo Global Financial Center.
FIAJ：It has been a while since Tokyo lost its position as a financial center. What do you think is needed to make Tokyo reclaim its position?
In a nutshell: human resources and information. I visited London last year for a financial round-table meeting at Chatham House. What I witnessed was the strength of London: there is information available and business opportunities. Tokyo must become a city with similar appeal.
The first step is to create a work-friendly environment for foreigners working in Japanese firms, in order to attract highly qualified professionals in the financial industry. One of the biggest hurdles to living or working in Japan is probably the fact that it is difficult to communicate in English. We will increase the number of multi-language street signs as well as hospitals and clinics where foreign language service is available.
The next step is to create an environment where foreign companies can conduct their businesses with much ease: under the national strategic special economic zone program, we will promptly initiate 10 dedicated business hubs in Tokyo, while setting up “one-stop business-opening centers” where foreign companies can process all their fillings and registrations at once. We want to provide administrative procedures in English as well.
Finally, the most important target is enhancing business opportunities in Tokyo. The field of life-science and the hydrogen-based society I mentioned earlier will be the leading tools to achieve this. By utilizing city-owned real estate to build public facilities and financing infrastructure funds contributing to welfare, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government itself will push business opportunity creation forward.
FIAJ：At the moment, most people perhaps consider Singapore and Hong Kong as the Asian financial center. Can Tokyo actually reclaim that position?
Japan still has a number of advantages: a convenient living environment, outstanding technology, huge financial assets and a dedicated work force. Tokyo is a sophisticated city where foreign businessmen can enjoy a high level of inspiration.
I also felt during my visit to London last year that the pickup in the Japanese economy under the Abenomics policy is drawing global attention recently. I believe that this timing, along with the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020 towards which the eyes and ears of the world come to focus on, is a rare opportunity to revive Japan.
I understand that fostering human resources and other initiatives will take time and that a long road lies in front of us, but I am confident that we can achieve this objective.
FIAJ： How much power does the Tokyo Metropolitan Government actually hold as a local authority? Financial regulations fall under the National government’s jurisdiction, so what can Tokyo do under this situation?
Let me answer that in two folds.
First, Tokyo can play a leading role in promoting the whole idea. It is true that the main players in the field of finance are the National regulators and the private sector financial institutions, but since we are not a regulator, we can actually carry related discussions openly with any party. When we called both state and private institutions to the table, all answered and were positive about moving forward with discussions. Upon announcing our Initiatives last September, we established a “Promotion Council” regrouping both the state and private sector.
Second, while collaborating with other entities, Tokyo can push forward its own agenda. As mentioned earlier, we will utilize Tokyo-owned real estate to enhance business opportunities, while working on living and business environments.
Additionally, recognizing that it is time consuming to nurture human resources and that “all things must have a starting point”, we will be launching a course in advance finance at the Tokyo Metropolitan University Graduate School starting from the 2016 fiscal year.
In an effort to convey Tokyo’s determined intention to reclaim its status of a world financial center, we plan to hold an international financial conference in 3 years, gathering the financial industry, regulators and media from around the world. In cooperation with the state and private sector, we will start the preparations for this event.
FIAJ：Your agenda for Tokyo is ambitious. How is it working so far?
At the aforementioned “Promotion Council”, we have heard some encouraging comments towards the realization of the Tokyo Global Financial Center from a gathering of central governing agencies, such as the Financial Services Agency, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and other ministries, as well as from the financial sector, such as banks and securities companies, and from industry associations, such as the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations.
This objective is to be tackled with the government and private sector working together as one. The Financial Services Agency in particular is working hard to realize the Tokyo Global Financial Center. In the private sector, the Japan Securities Dealers Association, for example, is appealing to the financial industry to establish further discussions. Overall, steady actions are being implemented one after the other.
In the end, “all of Japan” is moving towards realizing the Tokyo Global Financial Center, so I rest assured that we will make this a reality.