学研究予算 戦略なき削減は禍根を残す

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2010)
Reckless budget cuts create future problems
科学研究予算 戦略なき削減は禍根を残す(10月25日付・読売社説)

For Japan to survive intense international competition, there is no alternative but to build a nation driven by science and technological development. But it seems to us that the government is making light of this premise.

Many science-related budgetary allocations, including subsidies to sustain a wide range of basic research, are subject to "policy contests" in which budgetary requests by government ministries and agencies in the fiscal 2011 budget will be screened publicly.

State-run universities, which are instrumental in promoting research and fostering human resources, are included in the list of entities to be publicly screened. Operational subsidies, which are the universities' major financial lifeline, will be cut by about 56 billion yen--or nearly 5 percent--if all of their requests are rejected during the public screening.
The 56 billion yen corresponds to the entire amount of subsidies provided to Kyoto University, the second-biggest amount among national universities.

Protect university subsidies

Since state-run universities were turned into incorporated bodies in 2004, state subsidies to them have been trimmed by about 1 percent annually--a total cut of just over 80 billion yen. This might exacerbate the current severe situation under which it is difficult to maintain research and education levels.

About 210 billion yen, or 15 percent, of the budgetary requests for promoting science and technology projects--direct investments in this important field--will be subject to public screening. Also subject to scrutiny is the budget for a space probe to succeed Hayabusa, which earlier this year returned to Earth after completing its mission to the Itokawa asteroid.

The important thing is to promote research and development in both basic and practical fields while fostering capable personnel. Government investment should be decided from comprehensive and strategic viewpoints.

Screening science budgets, in which participants vie for superiority from a short-term perspective against other government policies, will open the door to serious problems in the future.

Final decisions on whether the projects will go ahead will be made by an evaluation panel comprising government leaders. We hope the panel will at least scrutinize individual projects closely so as not to nip promising programs in the bud.

Many people in the science and technology field are concerned that there could be a repeat of last autumn's open budget screening to eliminate waste in government spending.

Investments in future vital

The advisability of the government's project to develop a world-class supercomputer was questioned at a screening panel last year. One panel member even asked why Japan should try to develop the world's fastest computer. It is foolhardy to cut a budget without understanding how importance the project is.

The policy contests--and the opportunity to divide up more than 1 trillion yen set aside by the government--were introduced in return for a uniform 10 percent cut from the previous fiscal year in budgetary requests by all government ministries and agencies.

Most science-related budgets are compiled by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Due to constraints such as the 10 percent cut in budgetary requests and the 400 billion yen required for free high school education--an important policy of the ruling parties--subsidies for state-run universities will be screened.

We think high school tuition should only be made free if there is an income ceiling on recipients, so that only families who cannot afford to pay are entitled to the financial aid.

Investments in the future should not be trimmed because money has to be set aside for government hand-out policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2010)
(2010年10月25日01時01分 読売新聞)

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