Hokkaido has announced its initial budget for 2021 on February 19, with a 15.4% (JPY432.9 billion) increase over last year to JPY3.25 trillion (US$30.9 billion). This is the third-largest initial budget ever for the prefecture, which will now be proposed at the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly regular session on February 25.
However, the fund for IR development was a notable absentee following a recent comment by Governor Naomichi Suzuki that an IR was not in the immediate future for Hokkaido.
Funds being set aside in prefectural budgets have traditionally been considered by experts as a strong indicator of a prefecture’s intentions regarding IRs. The fact that no funds have been set aside for IR development in Hokkaido’s 2021 budget appears to signal the death knell for any remaining glimmers of hope that Hokkaido could somehow jump back into Japan’s IR race.
At a press conference, Suzuki positioned the new fiscal year’s budget as “a budget that protects lives, livelihoods and creates a path for the future.” It is hoped this will help the prefecture navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and build a society resistant to infectious disease while also promoting Hokkaido’s future in a post-pandemic world.
Revenue has declined in the economic downturn and the prefecture’s financial situation is strained. Governor Suzuki commented, “We will firmly defend ourselves while at the same time starting on proactive policy. Balancing defense and offense has been difficult but we will accept the challenge to build a future for Hokkaido while controlling the pandemic.”