IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Decentralization and Intergovernmental Finance in Japan


  • Ichiro Aoki

    (Policy Research Institute)


Japans mid-nineteenth century opening-up to Western influence, the so-called Meiji Restoration, drove political leaders to form a politically modern centralized country. Although Japan experienced a number of major decentralization processes under the post World War II Allied occupation, the Japanese government reviewed these reforms after the occupation. In fact during the post WWII era, the centralized system played a major role in establishing a national minimum standard of living. While political trends in the 1990s favored government decentralization, promotion of decentralization became a challenge for successive Cabinets. In 1999, the Diet enacted the Package Promoting Decentralization Act; this law repealed the delegation system under which local governments are subordinate to the central government. In 2003, the Koizumi Administration created the Trinity Reform plan. Trinity means the decentralization reform process that involves three factors : 1) A local allocation tax grant; 2) A national subsidy for local governments, and 3) A local tax. The package included reducing national subsidies to local governments and transferring tax revenue sources from the central government to local governments. Both Japans central government and local governments are financially closely connected and both face severe fiscal conditions. Japan has an aging population and the coming increase of social security related expenditures is a huge fiscal challenge. It is financially questionable whether the central government can continue to provide the local allocation tax grants which guarantee financial resources to cover revenue shortfalls of local governments. The central and local governments have to review their budgets with a concerted effort to improve government efficiency. The theorem on fiscal federalism argues that local governments can provide public services more efficiently and be more responsible to their residents through competition among local governments. However, decentralization in Japan contains two fundamental challenges : heavy duplication of roles and ambiguous fiscal responsibility across levels of government. What is necessary for decentralization in Japan is to narrow the role of the central governments. Furthermore, the central government revenue guarantee function should be limited; it is imperative to establish hard budget constraints at the local government level. The author would like to emphasize decentralization should be compatible with reconstruction of the public finance system. In the first chapter, the author explores the historical background of the relationship between Japans central government and local governments. Then, in the second chapter, the author introduces the recent Japanese government promotion of decentralization. Thereafter, the author provides an overview of financial relationships across levels of government in the third chapter. In the fourth chapter, the author surveys economic theories on fiscal federalism, whereby the author would like to clarify the advantages of decentralization. Then, in the fifth chapter, the author summarizes the two fundamental challenges between the central and local government in Japan : duplication of roles and ambiguous expenditure responsibility. Finally, the author makes suggestions for promoting Japanese government decentralization mainly focusing on the use of fiscal instruments.

Suggested Citation

  • Ichiro Aoki, 2008. "Decentralization and Intergovernmental Finance in Japan," Finance Working Papers 23074, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:eab:financ:23074

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    2. Wallace E. Oates, 2006. "On the Theory and Practice of Fiscal Decentralization," Working Papers 2006-05, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    3. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
    4. Isabelle Joumard & Tadashi Yokoyama, 2005. "Getting the Most Out of Public Sector Decentralisation in Japan," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 416, OECD Publishing.
    5. Bruce W. Hamilton, 1975. "Zoning and Property Taxation in a System of Local Governments," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 12(2), pages 205-211, June.
    6. Wallace E. Oates, 1991. "Studies In Fiscal Federalism," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 342.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    decentralization; fiscal federalism; financial reconstruction; hard budget constraints;

    JEL classification:

    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eab:financ:23074. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shiro Armstrong). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.