Interesting piece on “Japan’s youngest mayor,” trying to “save” the bankrupt city of Yubari, Japan.
Most young people have already fled this city of empty streets and shuttered schools, whose bankrupt local government collapsed under the twin burdens of debt and demographics that are slowly afflicting the rest of Japan.
Now, Yubari, a former coal-mining town on Japan’s northernmost main island, Hokkaido, is hoping an unlikely savior can reverse its long decline: a 31-year-old rookie mayor who has come to symbolize the struggle confronting young Japanese in the world’s most graying and indebted nation.
According to the article, cities like Yubari are seen as omens of Japan’s future:
Japan’s national debt has not preoccupied the world the way Europe’s has. But after years of government spending to shore up the economy, Japanese public I.O.U.’s have mushroomed to almost $12 trillion — more than twice the size of its economy and the heaviest government debt burden in the world. (Its treasury is able to keep financing that debt load by issuing government bonds because Japan, like the United States, is still a global investment haven.)
Mr. Suzuki’s popularity, particularly among young people, is implicitly attributed to his “new way of thinking:”
what if the city could do more to safeguard the most essential public services, while negotiating better terms on its debt repayments with the central government?
Whether this young mayor can negotiate away some of the city’s debt, or the constraints of bankruptcy, seems central to the question of his sustained popularity.