公共事業 選択と集中で効果的な投資を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 9, 2012)
Public works spending should be highly selective
公共事業 選択と集中で効果的な投資を(12月8日付・読売社説)

In the wake of the recent ceiling collapse in the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, public works policies have suddenly become a key issue for the upcoming House of Representatives election.

Neglecting aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure poses a risk to public safety. To maintain such infrastructure with limited funds, political parties are being asked how they would make public works projects more efficient.

Under what it calls a "national land strengthening plan," the Liberal Democratic Party has called for the investment of 200 trillion yen over 10 years in projects such as disaster management. New Komeito also has unveiled a 10-year 100 trillion yen "new deal" plan to prevent and reduce damage from major disasters.

The Democratic Party of Japan, which called for a shift in focus "from concrete to people" in the previous 2009 lower house election, has once again criticized such plans proposed by the LDP and Komeito as "pork-barrel measures." Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has raised questions, asking people, "Will we return to the old politics of the LDP?"

Meanwhile, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has vowed to boost Japan's competitiveness without increasing public works projects. But it lacks specific measures.


Infrastructure needs attention

Roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems and other infrastructure built nationwide during the period of the nation's rapid economic growth are nearing the end of their life span, causing them to deteriorate rapidly. Taking care of aging infrastructure is an urgent task.

We hope political parties present measures to alleviate such public concerns.

According to an estimate by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, 190 trillion yen will be needed over the next 50 years to maintain or rebuild infrastructure. Amid financial difficulties, government spending on public works has declined every year. There is no room for sudden major expenses.

To minimize costs, finding damaged infrastructure and fixing it early is crucial to extend its life span. The nation should place priority on inspecting and repairing bridges by taking lessons from a series of bridge collapses in the United States due to aging.

Considering its shrinking population, Japan may be forced to stop using low-use public facilities and infrastructure, such as bridges.

The nation must carry out new public works projects under a strategy of "selection and concentration." A focus should be placed on projects linked to economic growth such as the development of loop roads in urban areas and the building of airports and ports that could become international hubs.


Cost-effectiveness is key

The DPJ-led government's approval of the extension of Shinkansen lines is questionable in terms of cost-effectiveness. This project should be reviewed.

The LDP's national land strengthening plan focuses on large-scale projects such as development along an axis on the western coast of Honshu facing the Sea of Japan so that region could supplement the east in the event of a major disaster there. The plan resembles the revival of the "archipelago-remodeling" policy the party implemented in the 1970s.

The political parties must not forget that ineffective economic measures and overdevelopment of roads and airports, which had lower-than-expected demand, were partly blamed for swollen government budget deficits.

The idea of allocating part of tax revenues from consumption tax increases to public works projects also should be ruled out. It is vital to make effective public investments by taking advantage of funds and expertise from the private sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2012)
(2012年12月8日01時24分  読売新聞)

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