New task force charged with cutting wasteful public spending

Kyodo News

The government inaugurated a task force Thursday aimed at cutting wasteful public spending, after revelations of past recreational expenditures for items such as a massage machine drew taxpayers’ ire earlier this year.

The 10-member group headed by Yuzaburo Mogi, chairman and CEO of soy sauce maker Kikkoman Corp., aims to work proposals by early December on cutting unnecessary outlays and reflect them in the government’s fiscal 2009 budget draft by year’s end.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told the first meeting of the task force: “Projects funded by taxpayers’ money tend to lack the spirit of competitiveness and the public entities often carry them out following past practices. It’s difficult for the government to change the custom by itself.

“I asked experts like you to gather here to hear the practice of the private sector and reflect it in the government’s efforts” to abolish wasteful spending, he said.

The task force includes Reiko Akiike, partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group Inc., Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru and Sachiko Watanabe, mayor of Tama in suburban Tokyo.

Mogi said after the meeting that three working teams will be set up under the task force to examine the spending practice of the central government ministries and agencies in September and October.

The proposals to be compiled by December will be in line with Fukuda’s pledge to slash by 30 percent outlays for state-linked public-interest corporations, Mogi said.

In fiscal 2006, the state and independent administrative agencies spent ¥960 billion on projects implemented by 1,974 public-interest corporations.