People must share accurate information, not necessarily that issued by bureaucrats, in efforts to help a debt-ridden Japan, a key adviser on the streamlining of public corporations said Friday.

“Any reform can be implemented if people share more accurate and objective data than that (initially) released by authorities,” said freelance journalist Naoki Inose at a meeting in Tokyo.

Inose is a member of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s panel on privatizing four road-related public corporations.

Referring to debt at the four entities, which totals around 40 trillion yen, Inose said erroneously optimistic projections on large government projects, such as privatization, could saddle Japan with a debt of 700 trillion yen. This, he said, would lead to a serious crisis or “Japan’s bankruptcy.”

The four corporations are Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Inose presented a forecast by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry that says demand for transportation in Japan will not peak until 2030.

“But Japan’s population is expected to peak in 2006,” Inose said, questioning the validity of the ministry’s forecast.

“The ministry released the data intentionally” in an apparent bid to justify efforts to prevent a reduction in the size of road construction projects through expeditious privatization of the public corporations, he said.

Inose, 55, said Japan lost World War II because the government at the time ignored data suggesting Japan would be unable to defeat the Allies and forbade access to the information before Tokyo declared war in 1941.

Before Koizumi appointed Inose to the panel, influential members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including those with vested interests in road-related projects, publicly asked the prime minister not to do so.

Inose said sharing accurate and objective information can also help settle disputes over future reforms.

“Now we must entrust the fate of the structural reform measures to the maverick, Mr. Koizumi,” he said, adding that this may be the last chance for people to move to privatize the public corporations without using public funds.

Inose said Koizumi is the best man to implement reforms because he is single and has few younger followers to protect in the LDP. Or, more directly, because Koizumi has almost nothing to lose.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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