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2009年1月 3日 (土)

公益法人改革―「民の力」が育つように

2009/1/3

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 31(IHT/Asahi: January 3,2009)

EDITORIAL: Nonprofit activities

公益法人改革―「民の力」が育つように

Nippon Pro Baseball, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Amnesty International Japan and the Japan Parking Facilities Promotion Organization have one thing in common: They are all koeki hojin or public interest corporations overseen by government authorities.

 日本野球機構、NHK交響楽団、アムネスティ・インターナショナル日本、駐車場整備推進機構。これらの団体に共通するのは何か。いずれも役所が所管する公益法人という点だ。 

The basic legal framework for the operation of koeki hojin entities, including shadan hojin (incorporated associations) and zaidan hojin (incorporated foundations), was reformed in December for the first time in about 110 years.

 社団・財団法人の公益法人制度が今月、約110年ぶりに改められた。

Also in 2008, the NPO Law (law to promote specific nonprofit activities) turned 10 years old. Although the two systems involving private-sector public interest activities have reached milestones, there is still much room for improvement.

もうひとつ、NPO法人も根拠となる法律の施行から丸10年がたった。民間の公益活動をめぐる二つの制度がともに大きな節目を迎えたが、まだまだ使い勝手のいい制度とは言い難い。 

This past spring, a corporation under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Land, Transport, Infrastructure and Tourism was found to have squandered its road-related budget on wasteful projects, such as building little-needed parking lots. However, most of the nation's 25,000 koeki hojin entities are doing fine work in the fields of culture, sports, international exchanges and others.

 この春、利用者の少ない駐車場づくりなど、国土交通省所管の法人による道路予算の無駄遣いが問題になった。だが、約2万5千の公益法人の多くは文化、スポーツ、国際交流などの分野でまっとうな活動をしている。 

Under the former system, which had continued from the Meiji Era (1868-1912), public interest corporations could not be established unless they were approved by the central or prefectural governments. The authorities also had jurisdiction over the entities after their establishment.

 明治から続いてきた旧制度の根幹は、主務官庁制だ。中央官庁や都道府県が公益性を認めなければ設立できない。その後も役所が監督する。 

This system stood in the way of cross-ministerial activities, and even turned some corporations into "depositories" of government subsidies or destinations for retired bureaucrats.

 こんな関係が省庁の縦割りを越えた活動をやりにくくし、さらに天下りやそれを養う補助金の受け皿となる「官益法人」も生んできた。

The 2000 bribery scandal involving mutual aid society KSD, an incorporated entity, prompted the latest reforms that aim to eliminate political-bureaucratic collusion.

財団法人のKSDを舞台にした00年の汚職事件を機に、政官界との癒着を改めようとしたのが今回の新制度である。 

The reformed system does away with the need to obtain government approval to start a public interest corporation. As a rule, all one needs to do is register the incorporation.

 新制度では主務官庁制をやめ、登記だけで設立できる原則にした。

If a planned new third-party committee recognizes the public service nature of the intended activities, the corporation will be eligible for generous tax breaks, such as tax exemptions on donations received.

そのうえで、新設する第三者委員会が公益性を認めれば、寄付金控除など手厚い税優遇を受けられる新しい「公益社団・財団法人」になれる。 

The architects of the reformed system boast that this will eliminate bureaucratic red tape and bring greater freedom to public interest activities. However, the system is being given the thumbs down by the corporations.

 役所の制約を離れ、自由な活動を促すというのが、うたい文句だ。だが、法人側からの評判は悪い。 

They argue that the conditions are too strict and that registration requires a huge amount of paperwork. While they agree that entities of dubious nature should obviously not be approved, they say the system could result in proverbial cases of the cure being worse than the disease.

 公益性の認定条件が厳しく、申請などの事務作業も膨大だ。いい加減なものを認めてはならないのは当然だが、角を矯めて牛を殺すことにならないかという懸念が根強いのだ。 

Meanwhile, the NPO Law was initiated by Diet members with support from citizens groups. Under this law, as many as 36,000 NPOs have been established over the last decade. But many are now struggling financially, and some dubious ones have emerged.

 一方、市民も加わった議員立法で生まれたのがNPO法人の制度だ。この10年で3万6千もの法人ができたが、運営に苦しむところも多く、怪しげな法人もちらほらする。 

The establishment of NPOs is subject to approval from the Cabinet Office and other authorities. If they meet National Tax Agency requirements, they become "designated NPOs" eligible for tax breaks, such as tax-free donations.

 こちらも内閣府などの認証で設立された後、さらに国税庁に認められれば寄付金控除などの優遇がある「認定NPO法人」になれる。

Although the pertinent legislative provisions are revised every year, the hurdle is still high for designation as an NPO eligible for favorable treatment. Only about 90 have received that status so far.

年ごとに改善されているとはいえ、やはりハードルが高い。これまでに認定法人になったのはたった90ほどだ。 

The government insists that public interest corporations and NPOs alike must meet strict standards to qualify for tax breaks. While this argument is understandable, setting too high a hurdle would defeat the purpose of the law and will not help nurture a culture that encourages citizens to donate to public interest activities.

 公益法人にせよ、NPO法人にせよ、税の優遇を受けるには厳しい条件を満たす必要がある。官のそんな言い分は理解できるが、あまり厳しくては制度の意義が薄れるし、公益活動に市民が寄付する文化も育たない。 

Both the reformed system and the NPO Law place too heavy a burden on public service corporations.

 二つの制度とも法人側の負担が大きすぎる。

Private nonprofit activities are growing in importance. To support and encourage such activities, further reviews of the system are urgently needed, including easing the conditions under which those corporations will be able to receive tax-free donations.

ますます重要性が高まっていく民間の公益活動を育てていくには、寄付金控除を受けられる要件の緩和など、制度の見直しは急務だ。

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