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2012年8月20日 (月)

概算要求基準 成長を促す事業に絞り込め

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 20, 2012)
Put govt funds in projects that actually boost growth
概算要求基準 成長を促す事業に絞り込め(8月19日付・読売社説)

Japan has taken a big step toward restoring its fiscal health by enacting bills for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, including key legislation to increase the consumption tax rate.

Next fiscal year's budget will be a touchstone for whether the nation can set a course to break away from its dependence on borrowing in public finances.

The government has recently established guidelines for budget appropriation requests for fiscal 2013.

The ceiling on policy-related spending, which does not include expenditures for servicing government bonds, was set at 71 trillion yen. Regarding revenues, the government has set a 44 trillion yen limit on issuing new government bonds.
Both figures are about the same as the amounts earmarked for the initial fiscal 2012 budget.

For the next fiscal year, the government has established a special quota for the three fields of the environment, health care, and agriculture, forestry and fishing, which were given priority in the government's recently adopted plan to rejuvenate the nation, dubbed the "Japan revitalization strategy."
Under the quota, government offices are allowed to request two to four times the amount they trim from existing projects.

The government also set a quota in other fields noted in the revitalization strategy, allowing ministries and agencies to request up to 150 percent of the amount they cut from existing projects in these areas.

The aim of reviewing longstanding expenditures and varying the amount of money distributed to each project based on how much it contributes to Japan's growth is not bad.


Projects often rehashed

However, in the past, ministries and agencies have applied for similar quotas with projects they claimed were new, but in fact were just a rehash of conventional projects. This method is prevalent among government offices.

The government expects up to 4 trillion yen to be requested by the ministries and agencies for the quotas, but it should strictly narrow down the projects at the request stage, through efforts such as instructing government offices to avoid the overlap of projects.

We cannot dispel our doubts about whether the money allotted to the quotas will contribute to Japan's growth as expected. This is the biggest issue concerning the government's policy on the fiscal 2013 budget.

The nation must streamline agriculture-related expenditures. However, the government plans to continue including in the budget the income compensation program for individual farm households, which has been criticized as lavish spending.

We believe this is inconsistent with the growth strategy.

The government should instead allocate its budget predominantly to projects that fundamentally strengthen agriculture, based on the hypothesis that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord in the future.

Regarding projects to promote renewable energy, the government should refrain from allocating its budget extravagantly to projects unlikely to yield significant benefits.


Curb social security costs

It was totally reasonable for the government to ask the ministries and agencies in the guidelines to trim their regular budgets, such as cutting 10 percent of their public work expenditures.

The focal point is how to curb the surging costs of social security.

Due to the graying of Japan's population, the budget for social security will increase by 800 billion yen in fiscal 2013 from the previous year to just maintain the current system. The government should not treat social security costs as untouchable but take decisive efforts to trim them, such as curbing public assistance benefits, which have ballooned in recent years.

After taking power in 2009, the administrations led by the Democratic Party of Japan have touted a slogan of taking control from the hands of bureaucrats in budget compilations.
However, as the DPJ has stuck to implementing projects it pledged to the public in the 2009 House of Representatives election when compiling the past three budgets, the DPJ has failed to cut the nation's expenditures and debts have swelled. The scale of the budget has been increasing year by year.

There are strong pressures to increase expenditures for fiscal 2013, as Diet members begin worrying about the next general election. This is the time to change the budget's structure from expansion to restraint.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2012)
(2012年8月19日01時05分  読売新聞)


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