New ministry to give aging society top priority

The National Land and Transport Ministry, which will be created through the reorganization of four government offices next January, will put priority on Japan’s aging society, low birthrate and environment, government sources said Sunday.

The Construction Ministry, the Transport Ministry, the National Land Agency and the Hokkaido Development Agency are to be merged to establish the National Land and Transport Ministry and have drawn up separate outlines for the consolidation.

The Construction Ministry and the National Land Agency, in particular, put emphasis on securing transparency and efficiency in the administration in an apparent bid to prevent criticism of the new ministry’s excessive control over public works projects.

The new ministry will control 80 percent of the nation’s public works projects.

The four ministries and agencies will unify their outlines by the middle of next month and then hold hearings from prefectural governors and relevant bodies, the sources said.

In their outlines, the ministries and agencies maintained that the regrouping would enable policymaking and implementation “more comprehensive and with greater maneuverability,” in the words of the Transport Ministry.

The land agency noted that the transition to a more result-oriented way of thinking would require its staffers to improve their mentality and ability.

One of the key points in the creation of the National Land and Transport Ministry is how the Transport and Construction ministries will cooperate to make the transition smooth, observers say.

Many observers say the Transport Ministry’s greatest aim is to secure the trillions of yen in the special account for road maintenance.

That account, which is under the care of the Construction Ministry, could be used to build airports and new bullet train lines under the name of comprehensive transport administration.

The Transport Ministry says in its outline that it will strive “to create a vigorous economy and present the public with a fulfilling lifestyle through wide-ranging maintenance of the nation’s transport networks.”

In contrast, the Construction Ministry says it will aim to “improve the safety, convenience and cost-effectiveness of the movement of people and goods both at home and abroad,” but makes no mention of comprehensive transport maintenance.

Construction Ministry officials point out that it is “pointless” to attempt a comprehensive approach to transportation, saying it should be left up to the market to decide whether the mode of transportation needed is road, air, or rail.

“The Transport Ministry is just trying to draw such a picture so that it does not disappear with all the deregulation that is going on in areas it controls,” one official said.