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2013年8月 6日 (火)

公共事業予算 防災や成長分野に重点配分を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 6, 2013
Use FY14 public works budget to repair aging infrastructure
公共事業予算 防災や成長分野に重点配分を(8月5日付・読売社説)

The nation’s roads and bridges must be improved and comprehensive disaster countermeasures developed without fail by utilizing the government’s limited sources of revenue.

To this end, efforts should be redoubled to enhance the efficiency of public works projects.

The government, in working out guidelines for estimated budget appropriation requests from ministries and agencies for fiscal 2014, is set to reduce their allocations for discretionary spending for policy implementation, including public works projects, by about 10 percent compared with the fiscal 2013 initial budget.

In the budget for this fiscal year, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has earmarked 5.3 trillion yen for public works spending, the first year-on-year increase in four years, with a view to realizing the Abenomics policy package for refloating the national economy.

Given that Japan’s government finances are in the worst shape of all industrially advanced economies, however, the government cannot simply continue to expand outlays for public works projects.

It is reasonable that the government plans to impose curbs on public works spending based on the stringent guidelines for budget appropriation requests for the next fiscal year.

But at the same time, the government is poised to create special, expensive budgetary allocations that will not be subject to the envisioned across-the-board spending cuts. Sufficient cost-benefit considerations are a must in scrutinizing what policy measures should be included in allocations not subject to budgetary curbs.

Such anti-disaster measures as boosting earthquake resistance of buildings and strengthening the aging infrastructure are indispensable for ensuring the public’s safety. The pace of projects aimed at recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which have been delayed because of such factors as shortages of manpower and construction materials, must be swiftly accelerated.

‘Selection, concentration’

As part of the government’s growth strategy, it is essential to improve infrastructure, especially such things as arterial road networks in urban areas and airports that can serve as international hub airports.

To smoothly carry through these projects, the principle of “selection and concentration” should be thoroughly employed.

We want to see urgent anti-disaster projects and measures to improve infrastructure given high priority in budget allocations for fiscal 2014.

Costs for improving antiquated infrastructure will reach an estimated 190 trillion yen during the next 50 years, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. Under the circumstances, it is unrealistic to entirely rebuild aging infrastructure.

The idea of excluding low-use public facilities and bridges from repair and improvement projects is worthy of consideration.

It is worrying that the old-fashioned style of implementing public works projects may return. In this connection, the Liberal Democratic Party vowed in its election platform in the House of Councillors election in July to “promote projects for enhancing national land resilience.”

It should never be forgotten that previous construction of unneeded roads, airports and other projects touted under the banner of large-scale development programs ended up worsening government finances.

To cut back on costs, due constideration must be paid to ways public works projects are undertaken.

For example, information technologies should be used to enhance the efficiency of inspection and repair of such facilties as roads and bridges. To this end, automatic collection and analysis of data obtained through high-performance sensors could lead to cost reduction as well as longer life spans of such facilities.

It could also be effective to integrate such public facilities as schools and libraries into single entities, while expediting diversification of their functions.

In addition, sufficient attention should be given to the wisdom of making the best use of the private finance initiative formula of the central and local governments to entrust construction and management of public facilities to private businesses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2013)
(2013年8月5日01時43分  読売新聞)


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