Since the 1990s, a decline in local revenue caused by sluggish economic growth and an increased tendency for local governments to implement expansionary fiscal policies on behalf of Japan's central government have given rise to a growing gap between autonomous revenue and total expenditure. This has caused a rapid increase in various intergovernmental transfers, particularly to lowincome local governments, leading to excessive and unproductive spending. Within a cash-based settlement accounting system, the fiscal positions of low-income prefectures have become superior to those of high-income ones, giving the impression that the former are fiscally sounder than the latter. Decentralization initiatives should take these problems of the existing system into account.

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