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A devil of a job in the City of Angels

New Wealth

overall rank: 2

country: Japan


snapshot: The City at a Glance

Japan's most genki (energetic) city is getting a new boost. For the first time in nearly four decades, Fukuoka's mayor doesn't belong to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP was good to Fukuoka in a traditional way: Mega-development projects stimulated economic growth, enhanced the city's prestige and left it in debt. Newly elected Yamasaki Hirotaro, 57, is a more modern, post-Crisis kind of mayor. He promises a financially disciplined, environment-friendly and transparent administration. "Now that we are shifting from an era of rapid growth into an era of maturity, we need to review the quality of affluence," says Yamasaki. "Grandiose development projects are no longer an indicator of our happiness, the actual sense of affluence in citizens' daily lives are."

In the good old days, developers built Canal City Hakata, an upscale mall near the railway station; Seaside Momochi, a residential-commercial complex with a library, museum and research park; and Hawk's Town, a combined baseball stadium and shopping area. The city can also boast a new international convention center and a huge exhibition hall. A $3.8 billion artificial island in Hakata Bay, a $257 million skyscraper and another mall are all still under construction.

These projects left Fukuoka with an $18-billion debt, though, mostly a result of the generous issue of city bonds. (The defeated mayor claims that much of the money went toward necessary subways and roads.) The city is already cutting back on new bonds to minimize debt, but Yamasaki intends to reduce expenses where possible and to re-evaluate proposed projects. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the 400-hectare artificial island. A Japanese non-governmental organization named it one of the 10 most wasteful public-work projects in the country.

Still, Fukuoka ranks high in Japan for its administrative efficiency. While the city's population grew 8% and the budget almost doubled in the past 10 years, the government staff has barely increased. Fukuoka has 78 workers per 10,000 citizens, the lowest among Japan's 12 major cities (except Tokyo). Officials say that's because of efforts to computerize information, streamline some tasks and involve the private sector when possible. Fukuoka was among the first cities to privatize garbage collection from homes. It is building a new bottle recycling center with private-sector participation.

At the same time, Fukuoka has steadily established new ties with Asian countries. It organizes an annual Asia-Pacific Children's meeting, an Asia Month and an Asian film festival. The city presents special cultural prizes to people who made contributions to Asia. It is opening a museum of Asian art, the first such public institution in Japan. That might just be an appropriate symbol of affluence for Fukuoka.

- By Murakami Mutsuko

Snapshot: The City at a glance

City AverageRank
Overall Score72522
Average Income US$24,584(b)8,7633
State Educational Spending Per Cap/$314.48200.2211
a Ratio of House Price to Income8.7(c)2411
Hospital Beds per 1,0002063
Dust/Suspended Particles(ug/m3)34240.731
Vehicles per KM City Roads150*224.6218
Criminal Cases per 10,0003358140
TV Sets per 1,000400+*241.694

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a = Average house price divided by average annual income.
b = Household income.
c = Based on household income.
d = Officially, land cannot be bought or sold.
e = National figure.
f = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pollutants Standards Index.
g = Air Pollutant Index.
h = Per 100 families
i = Per 1,000 families
j = Per 75,000 people.
k = National figure, TV sets per 1,000 people.
m = % of households with TV sets.
n = Measured in Parts per Million (ppm).
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