独法見直し 仕分けの効果と限界が見えた

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 1, 2010)
Budget screening unit pulled its punches
独法見直し 仕分けの効果と限界が見えた(4月30日付・読売社説)

The government's latest session of budget screening was obviously inadequate in many respects, despite a certain degree of success in cutting projects undertaken by independent administrative institutions. This shows there is a limit to what can be accomplished through jigyo shiwake--the process of identifying wasteful government spending.

On Wednesday, the Government Revitalization Unit wrapped up a four-day budget screening session--the second held by the organ since November--that targeted 151 projects carried out by 47 of 104 independent administrative agencies.

Entities subject to the latest jigyo shiwake included the Urban Renaissance Agency. The revitalization unit concluded the agency's operations should be downsized by transferring its task of providing rental housing for elderly and low-income people to the national and local governments, while also selling upscale condominiums it had built to private sector corporations.

The unit also decided the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency should hand over its earned surplus of about 1.35 trillion yen to the state coffers.


Easier said than done

Little progress can be made in achieving such goals as cuts in projects and the handover of surpluses if independent administrative corporations--and the Cabinet Office and ministries supervising these bodies, for that matter--are left to their own devices. Given this, it is necessary to eliminate wasteful expenditures and reconsider the propriety of each project from a third-party point of view.

The revitalization unit failed to unreservedly plunge the scalpel into projects deemed unnecessary. The body decided only some projects should be abolished, including a loan program administered by the Center for National University Finance and Management to build and improve facilities at university hospitals. This will probably do little to curtail government spending.

It should not be forgotten that the Democratic Party of Japan's manifesto for last year's House of Representatives election promised "a fundamental review of independent administrative institutions, including their overall abolition." That pledge is a far cry from what the latest jigyo shiwake session has accomplished. This clearly illustrates how slipshod the party was in working out the details of its manifesto.

First and foremost, the revitalization unit's method of budget screening is unreasonable. The body concludes whether each project should be maintained or scrapped, through discussions that last barely one hour. This rule is applied to any and every project in question, the operating cost of which can range from several million yen to hundreds of billions of yen.


Can unit follow through?

In conducting a jigyo shiwake review, it is not unreasonable to single out large institutions--including the Urban Renaissance Agency and the Japan Housing Finance Agency--for discussions during which sufficient time is taken to provide different perspectives.

The jigyo shiwake review is appropriate in its objective--that is, working to end wasteful projects and commissioning private corporations to undertake certain projects. However, the revitalization unit will alienate the public if it cites last year's change of government as a pretext for its unbending approach to budget screening and turns a deaf ear to any objections--as if to say jigyo shiwake inspectors are infallible.

What is important is to arrange for the revitalization unit to properly follow up on the results of its latest jigyo shiwake and continue reform of independent administrative agencies, instead of treating these results as an unalterable conclusion.

Take the example of the body's call for the transfer of the Urban Renaissance Agency's rental housing business to the private sector and the national and local governments. It is necessary to form a final conclusion about the transfer in relation to what should be done to dispose of the 11 trillion yen debt incurred by the housing agency.

There are concerns that the results of the latest jigyo shiwake could be watered down if pertinent government ministries are left to decide how--and whether--the conclusions formed in the budget screening should be translated into action, which could allow bureaucrats to roll back their efforts. That should be averted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,April 30, 2010)
(2010年4月30日01時46分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-05-01 09:42 | 英字新聞

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