The government is looking to make legal changes to allow special road-building revenue to be used for alternative purposes, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said Wednesday.
At a session of the House of Representatives Financial Affairs Committee, he said the revisions may turn part of the special revenue into general revenue after the current five-year road construction program ends in March 2003.
The remarks reflect Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s plan to diversify the use of the special revenue as part of efforts to bring the nation’s debt-ridden state finances back into line over the medium to long term. But the attempt could incur strong resistance from construction industry-backed lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who have long monopolized the money in pork-barrel politics.
The revenue, which comes primarily from gasoline and vehicle weight taxes, amounts to 5.8 trillion yen under the budget for the current fiscal year that began in April.
Shiokawa said the government will expand the scope of the special funds to cover environment preservation and promote the use of less environmentally damaging motor vehicles when it compiles the state budget for fiscal 2002, starting next April 1.
He then said the government will minutely review the current framework of the revenue for road construction when it draws up the budget for fiscal 2003.
The special revenue for road construction was introduced in the early 1950s to improve the nation’s roads and expressway networks.
But for many years, it is known to have been used to serve the vested interests of some LDP lawmakers backed by the construction industry.
The Koizumi Cabinet’s readiness to review that revenue appears certain to trigger a backlash from within the LDP, especially from its largest faction, led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, many of whose members are closely linked to the construction industry. Koizumi became LDP president and prime minister after defeating Hashimoto in a party election.
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