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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Renho vows to cut waste

Charged by Kan with reviewing shadowy government-backed entities

Staff writer

While a sales tax hike may be on the horizon, the government will remain unyielding in its quest to eliminate wasteful spending, new state minister in charge of government revitalization Renho says.

News photo
Battling waste: Renho, state minister in charge of government revitalization, speaks at a group interview in Tokyo on Thursday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

In a group interview with reporters Thursday, the Upper House lawmaker, who was appointed to the position last week, acknowledged Japan's finances are in "dangerous waters," due mostly in part to its massive public debt.

But Renho revealed that Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked her when she was appointed to focus on "jigyo shiwake" — the ongoing review of shadowy government-backed entities — to eliminate financial waste.

"As long as I am in charge, we will be giving all our efforts to reduce wasteful spending," Renho said. "I don't think going through the process while simultaneously launching discussions for a tax hike is contradictory."

Renho goes by her first name only as she used the name while working as a model and TV newscaster before becoming an Upper House member. Born to a Taiwanese father, she held dual citizenship until 18 and then chose the Japanese nationality.

Touching on the two highly publicized rounds of shiwake already held under the Democratic Party of Japan initiative, Renho, who played a key role in both sessions, said her team is getting better at weeding out excessive government projects each time.

"There was a lot of pointless spending," Renho said. "Some show indications that there still is a cozy relationship between the government, bureaucrats and some industries."

While Renho did not propose a date for the third shiwake screening — which is likely to target the bureaucracy's notorious "special account budgets" — she repeated that new measures are being discussed to produce better results.

"Giving incentives to those who pare down their budgets is a thought," Renho said, explaining bureaucrats must be motivated to trim their allocations instead of hoarding them as much as possible.

Renho, who at 42 is the youngest member of the Cabinet, is serving her first term in office. In addition to juggling her new role as state minister with her duties as a mother of two, she is also one of those in the upper chamber who will be up for re-election come July.

Asked what she intends to achieve as a minister, she replied with a ready and focused response.

"The current budget system makes it difficult for the public to understand where and how tax money is being used. My aim is to clarify things, to make it possible for the public to see the whole picture without difficulty," she said.

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The Japan Times

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