Japanese government to stop subsidies for air conditioning at 108 Okinawan schools

May 10, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Ryota Nakamura

The Japanese government has announced that from 2016 onward it will end a portion of subsidies for air-conditioning maintenance in schools near U.S. military bases. The air-conditioning maintenance is part of a soundproofing program that the government implements at such schools. On May 9, it was discovered that 108 nursery schools, preschools, and elementary, middle, and high schools in Okinawa will lose their air-conditioning maintenance subsidies. According to the Ministry of Defense (MOD), in fiscal 2015 it spent 317 million yen on air-conditioning subsidies at 262 schools and other facilities nationwide, including 218 million yen on the 108 schools and other facilities in Okinawa. While the policy shift will be implemented uniformly nationwide, since Okinawa is home to 41.2 percent of the schools and other facilities and received 68.7 percent of the subsidies, it will be significantly impacted by the change.
Air-conditioning maintenance subsidies are divided into four levels based on the noise level around the school or facility. Subsidies for facilities in areas in which the noise level is ranked 1 or 2 will be continued. However, for facilities in areas in which the noise level is ranked 3 or 4, where detailed design plans will be drawn up to update the air-conditioning units from 2016 onward, subsidies will be stopped. Affected facilities include those near Japan Self-Defense Force bases as well as U.S. military bases.

The MOD has mentioned the tight fiscal situation as a reason for halting subsidies to facilities in level 3 and 4 areas, explaining that the government’s overall subsidy outline was altered to eliminate subsidies to level 3 and 4 areas where the impact would be relatively lighter than in level 1 and 2 areas.

The MOD has not revealed the names of the schools subject to the policy change, but according to Ryukyu Shimpo investigations, facilities in level 3 and 4 areas that will lose their subsidies include 15 in Onna Village, 6 in Ie Village, 5 in Nishihara Town, and 19 in Naha City.

Meanwhile, the MOD says that if repairs are made on air-conditioning systems in schools and other facilities in level 3 and 4 areas from 2016 onward, the government will subsidize 85 percent to 95 percent of the costs in level 3 areas and 75 percent to 85 percent of costs in level 4 areas.

News of the policy change is making waves in Okinawa, and the Okinawa Office of Education has announced its intention to request the revocation of the partial abolition of air-condition maintenance subsidies. As of May 9, the liaison council of prefectural governors from the fourteen prefectures hosting U.S. bases says it does not have detailed information on the policy change and has not yet decided on a response. However, it plans to demand in its annual petition to the national government that all costs for air-conditioning maintenance be covered by national treasury funds.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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