予算編成作業 科学・文化を衰退させるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 6, 2009)
Long-term view needed on science, culture plans
予算編成作業 科学・文化を衰退させるな(12月6日付・読売社説)

Investment in science, technology, culture and education do not quickly produce tangible results, although they do involve time and money. Therefore, the screening of such fields by the government's cost-cutting panel simply cannot be based solely on short-term cost-benefit analysis.

A long-term perspective should be adopted when it comes to laying the foundations for the promotion of intellectual creativity.

The Government Revitalization Unit--tasked with identifying wasteful government spending--has judged that many projects in these fields should be scrapped or their budgets cut. However, the government should boldly review the panel's recent judgments and make appropriate adjustments in the budget.

In the fields of science and technology, the panel recommended that a program to develop a next-generation supercomputer should be effectively frozen. It also recommended the government abolish a project for promoting science and technology on a regional basis, and slash funding for a proposed collaboration between industry, academia and the government. The project aims at utilizing research carried out by universities to foster the growth of regional industries.

Nobel Prize winners, including Leo Esaki, criticized the panel's budget reductions for science and technology projects, saying in a joint statement it "runs contrary to the government's aim of making the country a science and technology powerhouse." It is no surprise they made such a criticism.


Intl competitiveness at risk

The budget cuts proposed without a long-term strategy in mind would see the foundations of the nation's quest for knowledge crumble. It also could undermine Japan's efforts to remain internationally competitive.

The cost-cutting panel also recommended the government abolish the Children's Dream Fund, a project that aims to get more children reading books and was established after a campaign by a suprapartisan group of lawmakers following Children's Reading Year in 2000.

The fund has supported about 2,000 projects every year aimed at developing environments in which more books are read to and by children.

Next year has been designated National Year of Reading by a resolution that was unanimously adopted by both chambers of the Diet. The government should maintain this project in view of its important role in promoting the culture of the printed word.


Arts facing big cuts

Meanwhile, the panel concluded that the budget for supporting the arts allocated through the Japan Arts Council should be greatly reduced.

The budget is used mainly for covering the operational expenses of Tokyo's New National Theatre, which has won high praise internationally for its ballet, opera and live theater productions, as well as for promoting excellence in other cultural and artistic fields. Some members of the panel even called for state funding to be terminated in the future.

However, culture and art will never thrive if they are left to operate on an entirely commercial basis. In the United States and across Europe, governments actively support the arts and promote private-sector assistance through tax systems that promote donations.

Some say the promotion of culture should be left to local governments, but their culture-related budgets have been eroded by the economic crisis gripping the nation. The central government should draw up a policy that maintains the necessary assistance.

In the education budget, a comprehensive plan for English-language education reform was judged not worth funding.

The panel said the budget for an English-language study guide for primary schoolers should be eliminated, causing dismay among teachers across the country. English-language lessons will become mandatory for all fifth- and sixth-graders in academic year 2011.

The government should move to safeguard key budgets and clarify this stance as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary concern and confusion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2009)
(2009年12月6日01時15分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-12-06 08:30 | 英字新聞

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