Time flies and it’s already June. As measures against COVID-19, we delayed the start of the spring semester by three weeks and are conducting classes online. In AY 2008, the Course of Public-Private Partnership introduced online degree programs for graduate students residing far from campus. Taking advantage of the experience we have accumulated through these programs, we conducted classes online via web conferencing, which allows all students to participate in a lecture remotely in real time. For me personally, I conduct my classes with my heart pounding, each time worrying whether the class will go smoothly. Sometimes lessons do not go as planned, but I feel I will be able to cope with problems to some extent as I get more experience. The biggest advantage to me is being able to conduct lectures from home without having to undergo a long and exhausting commute.
Of course, there are cases where it is better for the teacher and students to meet face-to-face. However, given the fact that universities were among the first sectors that were asked to close, even if the declaration of a state of emergency is lifted, we cannot immediately go back to where we were before the pandemic. But I hope we will be able to gradually resume classes and other activities on campus, with stringent safety measures in place.
Starting from June, the Research Center for PPP and Asia PPP Institute will resume their research activities, mainly online for the time being. I think that PPP in the post-COVID-19 era will be a big research theme, even when seen internationally.
Governments are responsible for taking infection control measures. But, which government—national, prefectural, or municipal—should take responsibility? Given the global spread of COVID-19, the United Nations, which is a world governing body, and WHO should fulfill greater responsibilities, but do they have sufficient capacity? What roles should private companies play? It is said that Japan has overcome the first wave of COVID-19 through voluntary self-restraint by its people. But why did Japanese people exercise self-restraint? Should self-restraint be observed? Is it OK to ostracize individuals and companies who are not exercising self-restraint? Does contract- or law-based governance, instead of self-restraint, function? How does the community accept facilities with a higher risk of infection? And what are necessary conditions for consensus building? Are there any methods to build consensus under circumstances where self-restraint is exercised? Can social distancing be compatible with compactification? What should a compact city be like after COVID-19? What should public facilities and infrastructure be like after COVID-19? How will massive emergency economic support measures affect the country’s finances? What kind of influence will COVID-19 have on the next generation? How should we save companies that can survive post-COVID-19?
For none of these questions can clear conclusions easily be drawn. At the very least, we cannot conclude that Japan will return to big government and no PPPs will be required in the post-COVID-19 era. On the contrary, PPP will be more and more necessary. It can be said that the mission of PPP is to devise innovative ways to facilitate technological development as well as new idea generation and incorporation, and to effectively incorporate available knowledge and wisdom to improve efficiency and thereby reduce financial burdens. The Course of PPP of Toyo University will continue striving to further promote education and research activities that can contribute to society.
Chair, Course of Public-Private Partnership, Graduate School of Economics
Director, Research Center for Public-Private Partnership