The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has set 27 assessment criteria aimed at improving public works projects, ministry officials said Wednesday.

The criteria emphasize the promotion of pollution-free vehicles, infrastructure for foreign visitors to Japan and the international air transport of goods, the officials said.

The ministry will hear the comments of a third-party panel next week before officially deciding on the criteria.

The move is in line with legislation, currently under Diet scrutiny, that requires ministries and agencies to carry out a comprehensive review of their policies, the officials said.

The assessment will be conducted within a five-year period that got under way at the beginning of fiscal 2001 in April, they said.

The move is aimed at increasing efficiency and productivity in an effort to address increasing taxpayer unrest over government spending on public works projects. Many people believe these projects are unnecessary, given Japan’s prolonged economic slump and the nation’s tight budget conditions.

The ministry devised the 27 criteria under three major policy themes. These are the acute need for assessment, a more comprehensive review based on the results of other policy evaluations and a change in socioeconomic conditions.

Among the criteria for assessment between fiscal 2001 and 2002 are the promotion of environmentally friendly motor vehicles and improving the efficiency of goods distribution through better key international air routes, the officials said.

In the three-year period beginning in fiscal 2003, the ministry will review projects based on measures for zero emissions of harmful gases, efficient use of land including the nation’s holiday resorts, better infrastructure for foreigners traveling in Japan, the deregulation of domestic aviation and efficiency in the transportation of goods through access to airports and seaports.

Also included is an assessment, to be conducted between fiscal 2002 and 2003, of dam projects based on their effects on local communities. This apparently counters the recent “no more dams” policy adopted by maverick Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka.

“We want to assess the role and effects of dams to demonstrate their necessity in a more easily understandable fashion,” a ministry official said.

Other criteria include the promotion of comprehensive resort and recreation areas, measures on marine pollution, barrier-free facilities for the disabled, use of pleasure boats, better conditions for train commuters in large cities, next-generation aviation security systems and comprehensive maritime traffic safety systems.

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