Regional construction bureaus and local government panels are trying to revive 38 of the 281 questionable public works projects that the ruling coalition and the national government want scrapped, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.
In August, the ruling coalition — led by the Liberal Democratic Party — recommended the termination of 233 mostly dormant public works projects, while the Construction Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry separately listed 48 other projects as targets for review.
Local government-based regional construction bureaus and public works review panels have since been asked to re-examine the projects under their respective jurisdictions.
The Construction, Transport and Agriculture ministries will make a final decision on those projects by the end of November, after examining the reviews.
The ruling coalition’s own public works review was prompted by its poor showing in July’s Lower House election. Voters in urban constituencies, in particular, criticized the government for its lavish spending on wasteful projects in rural areas.
In its recommendations to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the coalition said the government should abandon projects:
* That have not started five years after their proposal. * That remain unfinished 20 years after their initial completion date. * That are not making any headway at present. * For which the government failed to set aside expenditure within 10 years of a feasibility study being undertaken.
While ruling coalition leaders engaged in the review process initially said that practically all of the projects on the list should be terminated, with the exception of “fewer than 10,” this plan has met with resistance from local authorities.
The latest Kyodo News survey of the review process shows that the groups have so far decided to support the scrapping of 130 projects — nearly half the 281 on the list.
They are demanding, however, the continuance of 38 projects, citing “strong requests from local communities,” according to the survey.
For example, Sendai’s review panel says the city’s redevelopment project should be continued, while Okayama and Ehime prefectures are demanding that their irrigation improvement work and a dam construction project be revived.
Such requests may increase in coming weeks as the panels have not clarified their position on nearly 100 projects, stating that they are “still under review.”
There are some cases in which local authorities are trying to circumvent the ruling coalition guidelines. Oita Prefecture, for example, decided to terminate the six projects put on the coalition’s scrap list but says they can be restarted once agreements are reached among relevant bodies.
A prefectural government official said, “We believe these projects to be necessary and this is a form of modest resistance to the national government.”
Construction Minister Chikage Ogi seems to oppose reviving a large number of the projects slated to be scrapped.
“I want to respect the opinions of local authorities but we also have to examine why those projects have become dormant,” she said.
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