独法・特会改革 肝心なのは政府支出の削減だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 25, 2012)
Cuts in govt spending key to administrative reform
独法・特会改革 肝心なのは政府支出の削減だ(1月24日付・読売社説)

A review of organizational structures is only the first step in administrative reform.

To expand the people's acceptance of a tax hike, it is indispensable to link it with a substantial cut in government spending.

The Government Revitalization Unit has decided on reform proposals for independent administrative entities and special accounts.

The government will submit related bills to an ordinary session of the Diet to realize the reform.

The proposed reform calls for abolishing seven of 102 independent agencies, including the Public Foundation for Peace and Consolation, and privatizing seven entities, including the National Hospital Organization.

Thirty-five agencies, including the Riken research institute, will be consolidated into 12 entities.

As a result, the number of such agencies will be trimmed by nearly 40 percent.

In its draft proposal, the government called for abolishing or privatizing a total of five agencies.

To show the government's determination to carry out administrative reforms, the number of such entities being downsized or abolished has increased remarkably in line with the ruling parties' philosophy that politicians, not bureaucrats, should take the initiative in formulating policies.
The reductions lay the foundation for integrated reform of social security and tax systems.

The reform plan this time, it can be said, is more drastic than the one proposed by the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito in terms of the number of agencies to be cut.


Old wine in new bottles

But the entities to be abolished include those to be transferred to state jurisdiction. Many of those to be privatized represent a mere change of names. It is undeniable that priority was given to manipulating numbers.

Even if the number of executives is trimmed by absorbing other independent administrative entities in charge of completely different affairs, it is feared the changes could lead to the creation of bloated organizations if the staff of each agency remains intact.

The biggest concern is that the government has not revealed how much it will curtail government spending on independent administrative agencies, which totals 3 trillion yen a year.

In line with organizational reforms, it will be necessary to downsize staff and reduce or abolish nonessential and nonurgent operations.

It is important to transfer operations that can be entrusted to local governments and the private sector as much as possible, thereby eliminating dual administration and other administrative waste.

Big agencies hold the key to spending cuts.

Concerning the Urban Renaissance Agency and the Japan Housing Finance Agency, panels of external experts will be formed to draw conclusions on spending cuts this summer.

We hope for reasonable results.

Agencies that continue to exist will be classified by type of function into such categories as financing, human resources development and research and development, and the most appropriate supervisory system will be introduced at each agency.


Continuous reform needed

This is because it is unreasonable to manage independent agencies with different purposes and operations under one system.

Continuous reforms are called for.

The number of special accounts will be reduced from 17 to 11 through abolition or integration of such accounts as the one on social capital investment.

But mere cuts in the number of special accounts will not lead to reduced spending and enhanced efficiency.

The former Road Improvement Special Account was used regardless of profitability to construct highways whose necessity was considered low.
Allocating budgets to higher-priority areas while eliminating such a sanctuary would produce results.

According to the Board of Audit, 1.8 trillion yen in surplus funds for fiscal 2009 was not used in the following fiscal year and was carried over to fiscal 2011.

If possible, surplus funds should be transferred to the general account and used effectively.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2011)
(2012年1月24日00時59分 読売新聞)

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