Shiokawa vows not to charter jets

Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said Wednesday he will no longer charter flights for overseas trips after being criticized by an opposition lawmaker for wasting public funds.

“I will not use them any more,” he told a session of the House of Councilors Financial Affairs Committee after being questioned about the necessity of chartering a flight to Paris in February to attend a meeting of the financial chiefs of the Group of Seven major economies.

Hiroshi Watanabe, head of the Finance Ministry’s International Bureau, said that 11 ministry officials, including Shiokawa, chartered the jumbo jet to Paris. The return flight carried 17 people, including Bank of Japan officials.

The flight cost the ministry 53.66 million yen, Watanabe told the same committee session. He said it is unclear how much of the cost was shouldered by the BOJ.

Shiokawa said he had no choice but to charter the jet because he was held up until the last moment in a Diet session.

“I want to ask the Diet to let me leave earlier so that I can arrive a day before” the start of such events by using commercial flights in future, the minister said.

Shiokawa was responding to Kohei Otsuka, an Upper House member of the Democratic Party of Japan, who said such a major outlay was inappropriate.

If circumstances prevent ministers from traveling on a commercial flight, according to Otsuka, they should use the government plane, which is usually reserved for use by the prime minister and members of the Imperial family.

If that is not possible, they should use planes other than jumbo jets to cut costs, he said.

Shiokawa left for Paris aboard the chartered flight on the evening of Feb. 21 to attend the G7 meeting, but missed a working dinner that kicked off the two days of talks by the group’s finance ministers and central bank chiefs.