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2013年9月 5日 (木)

概算要求 財政規律の緩みにメス入れよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun September 5, 2013
With debt over ¥1 quadrillion, govt must tighten fiscal discipline
概算要求 財政規律の緩みにメス入れよ(9月4日付・読売社説)

The government’s fiscal discipline is far too lax considering that the country’s outstanding debt exceeds ¥1 quadrillion.

The Finance Ministry must strictly assess the budget appropriation requests submitted by other ministries, including the Cabinet Office, and cull any spending deemed neither essential nor urgent.

Total budget requests for fiscal 2014 are expected to reach a record ¥99.2 trillion, far larger than the initial budget of about ¥92.6 trillion for the current fiscal year.

The primary reason for the expected expansion in budget requests is the government’s failure to place ceilings on expenditures because it has been unable to come up with tax revenue projections, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has yet to decide whether the consumption tax rate should be raised next spring.

The government earlier set a policy of reducing by 10 percent the allocations for discretionary spending, such as for public works projects.

However, the government established what it called a “priority framework for a new Japan.” This allowed the ministries to submit requests, separately from ordinary budget requests, for public works spending in such areas as growth strategy and disaster management. This has turned out to be a loophole.

Under the circumstances—and with the backing of the ruling parties—the ministries have increased their requests by a large margin.

Symbolic of this is that the ministries hurriedly put in requests totaling about ¥3.5 trillion, the framework’s upper limit.

Yet it is doubtful whether these requests are in line with the framework, as many concern conventional public works such as road construction and farmland improvement.

Also, several ministries and agencies made separate requests that appear similar, such as the promotion of the use of so-called big data.

Use funds wisely

It is problematic that public works spending requests, when added to requests under the priority framework, have increased significantly.

Public works spending requested by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry totals ¥5.2 trillion, up about 17 percent from the fiscal 2013 initial budget. The ministry included requests for the construction of roads and dams and for extending Shinkansen lines, under the overall theme of “promoting projects to enhance national land resilience.”

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has increased its requests for public works projects by about 19 percent to ¥770 billion, due to an increase in spending on land improvement projects, which was reduced markedly under the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan.

Measures to deal with decrepit infrastructure and the rejuvenation of the farming sector are important. But the government should not allocate large sums of money for road construction or to subsidize the farming sector, both of which are not considered essential.

The government must rack its brains to ensure effective use of a limited amount of funds and employ the principle of “selection and concentration” in implementing projects.

If the ministries merely inflated their budgetary requests in anticipation of tax revenue increases following the economic recovery and the consumption tax hike, they are completely devoid of a sense of crisis regarding the deterioration of the nation’s fiscal situation.

Even if the consumption tax hike is implemented as planned, the expected increase in tax revenue is principally intended to finance ballooning social security programs, leaving no room for the government to throw money around.

If the government fails to compile a carefully thought out budget, the government’s efforts to achieve fiscal reconstruction will be more difficult.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s budget request is an estimated record ¥31 trillion, sending the social security budget spiraling upward. The government must waste no time in wielding the ax to slash some of the highest expenditures in this request.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2013)
(2013年9月4日01時39分  読売新聞)


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