DPJ bill aims to reign in damaging public works

The Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday unveiled a draft of legislation designed to reign in wasteful and environmentally damaging public works projects, saying that it plans to submit the bill to the Diet in early May.

The proposed Public Works Control Law would streamline the current system — 16 overarching development frameworks for myriad types of public works plans — into one five-year plan requiring Diet approval.

Projects that have still not been started five years after approval would be reviewed, and other projects would be reviewed if they have been under way for 10 years or if a local assembly or a majority of local residents oppose their continuation.

In addition, two years after a project is initiated, it would face a review that would judge whether it is still fiscally viable. Ten years after a project is started, environmental impact assessment would be obligatory.

DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama said the party planned to make the public works control proposal a part of its platform to attract voters in the next general election for the Lower House.

The DPJ’s presentation of the plan took place at a symposium on re-evaluating public works projects and was accompanied by reports from civic groups opposing controversial projects throughout the country.

“An estimated 50 trillion yen is poured into public works each year, more than 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product,” said DPJ lawmaker Seiji Maehara, adding that this draft is designed to cut public works’ expenditures by about one-third.