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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Second round of state spending reviews begins

Staff writer

The administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Friday kicked off its second round of public wrangling with bureaucrats over the funding of semigovernmental bodies.

The latest round of screening, or "shiwake," by the Government Revitalization Unit, targets projects managed by independent administrative institutions and public interest corporations. The process is being carried out in Tokyo's Nihonbashi district and is open to outsiders.

This portion of the screening — which is intended to find a way to either sharply reduce or abandon wasteful projects — will run through Wednesday, scrutinizing 151 projects being worked on by 47 semigovernmental bodies whose purpose is to perform tasks deemed necessary for the public good but whose purview lies outside the reach of the government or private companies.

These bodies are often criticized for using public money inefficiently and providing cushy postretirement jobs to senior bureaucrats through notorious practice of "amakudari" (descent from heaven).

This round will be concluded next month.

By showing the public its streamlining efforts, the administration also hopes to salvage its faltering public support rate.

"One characteristic of the screening is to bring transparency to the way taxpayers' money is used," Yukio Edano, the minister in charge of administrative reform, said in his opening remarks as the screening got under way.

"When it becomes transparent, some possible wasteful spending can be found. That will certainly attract taxpayers' attention, and their power can change things," he told the other members of the screening team, which consists of lawmakers and people from the private sector.

The Government Revitalization Unit is chaired by Hatoyama but effectively led by Edano. It aims to compile a set of reforms for targeted institutions as soon as June.

Friday's session reviewed projects from nine independent administrative institutions, including the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The first round of the project review took place in November when the government was trying to cut waste from the fiscal 2010 budget.

The amount of funding that ended up getting cut was small, but the screening attracted significant public attention and some light was thrown on normally opaque portions of the budget.

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The Japan Times

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