Infrastructure ministry aims to streamline public works

If a government agency has its way, the goals of public works projects will become more clear-cut, and nine long-term projects will be consolidated into one.

Sources at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said the ministry plans to propose a law dealing with these issues.

If enacted, the law will mark a turnaround from the current emphasis on the balanced development of national land and enable regional blocs to select their own priority projects, the sources said.

The law would thrash out environmentally friendly concepts, including the implementation of public works projects stressing the repair of environmental damage. It would aim at accelerating project completion, reducing costs and increasing transparency, the sources said.

Railway projects, which so far have not been part of any long-term projects, will for the first time become a priority, the sources added.

The ministry intends to submit draft legislation to the Diet in 2003.

When the ministry unveiled the idea of consolidating long-term projects at a meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy in August, it failed to say clearly whether a new law would be enacted.

The move to enact a new law reflects the opposition raised at the council to stopgap legislation designed for specific projects for roads and rivers, the sources said. The reappointment of Chikage Ogi as infrastructure minister, they added, has also been a factor.

Ogi was tapped for the post for the second time in the Sept. 30 Cabinet shuffle. She is said to be keen on seeing the new law enacted to replace the stopgap legislation.

The ministry has yet to work out the details of the new legislation.

One issue to be resolved is what to do with road-related funds, the use of which is limited to road construction and maintenance.

Other issues include how to deal with the special accounts set up for road, water, port and airport projects. The administration of traffic facilities and other infrastructure jointly managed by several ministries and agencies must also be considered.