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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 18 - 24  > Defend local small business shopping areas as community property
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2007 April 18 - 24 [ECONOMY]

Defend local small business shopping areas as community property

April 16, 2007
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Nationwide, in many shopping districts where local small traders are concentrated, residents in the area can easily notice that the number of vacant spaces or closed stores is increasing.

One reason for the sluggish sales is that the ongoing increase in poverty and social gaps is causing a decline in the purchasing power of the general public, while large corporations are making record-high profits and enjoying a long-term boom in business.

Another reason is that downtown shopping districts are increasingly hollowed out because large stores have arbitrarily come in and gone out in the areas next to such shopping districts and gigantic retails stores and commercial complexes have been constructed in the suburban areas in disregard of small shops and local needs.

In 1998, the government greatly eased the regulations on the construction of and business operations of large retail stores by replacing the Large-Scale Retail Stores Law with three community planning related laws, allowing large retailers to freely construct new suburban stores and keep them open them all night.

The profits of large stores are siphoned off by their headquarters located outside those communities. In contrast, local shopping districts return their profits to local industries and employment in the areas, benefiting local communities. Local shopping areas are “the core of the local community” as they not only provide local residents with conveniences needed for their daily life, but contribute to the maintenance of local festivals, traditions, and culture as well as youth education, crime prevention, and disaster prevention. Local communities and residents value those diversified functions of shopping districts as “community property.”

In May 2004, the Japanese Communist Party announced a set of policy proposals on large-scale stores, shopping malls, and community planning, which called for new rules to enable municipalities to restrict large-scale retail stores’ right to arbitrarily open and withdraw. Joining forces with local residents, the JCP has promoted movements for establishing such rules.

Amid an increase in residents’ movements and public opinion, the three community planning related laws were revised last year with mixed results. Regulations on the construction of suburban retail complexes were toughened, but for the most part the legislation failed to meet the demands of local communities.

Even after the legislation, such movements are increasing throughout Japan. In Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture, local residents collected signatures calling for the withdrawal of a plan to construct a huge shopping center with an area of 100,000 square meters, expecting yearly sales of 15 billion yen. In Kumamoto City in Kumamoto Prefecture, residents are continuing their movement in opposition to a plan to construct a huge commercial shopping complex.

In disregard of local residents’ demands, the “all-are-ruling-parties” forces in local assemblies, consisting of the Liberal Democratic, Komei, Democratic, and other parties except the JCP, are promoting urban development projects to invite large-scale stores and giant commercial complexes.

In contrast, the JCP is proposing concrete measures to promote residents-oriented community and shopping areas such as the “use of vacant spaces and improvement in pavements, lightings, and parking spaces in shopping districts as well as providing the elderly with home-delivery services and discount coupons.” - Akahata, April 16, 2007
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