DPJ’s budget-waste watchdog: ¥3 trillion in fat just a start


The Democratic Party of Japan will pare wherever possible wasteful government spending and also attempt to enhance the quality of the annual budget, state minister Yoshito Sengoku said Friday in an interview.

“Our motto is to shift the money from ‘concrete’ to the people,” Sengoku, the Cabinet’s chief on administrative reform, said of the DPJ pledge to eliminate unnecessary construction projects and return the budgetary outlays for such excesses to the public.

Sengoku, in his sixth Lower House term, landed the key Cabinet post last month under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. As the spending watchdog, he is bent on ending any wasteful spending budgeted by the previous government.

Although Sengoku’s team has not trimmed enough waste to meet the DPJ’s election campaign pledges — including toll-free expressways and higher child care allowances — in less than a month into office they have managed to glean approximately ¥2.5 trillion from the supplementary budget of the Liberal Democratic Party administration the DPJ ousted in the Aug. 30 election.

Asked if the ministries can add to the amount and reach the ¥3 trillion target by next week’s deadline, Sengoku told reporters his aims are “way higher than that.”

“But it’s not going to be an easy task,” he added, while opting not to disclose specific goals.

Once reconstruction of the supplementary budget is complete, the administrative reform team will work to compile the fiscal 2010 budget by the end of the year, he said.

“Transparency will be key,” he said, promising the DPJ will clearly demonstrate how taxpayer money is spent.

Another goal for the 63-year-old is abolishing the corruption-prone practice of “amakudari” (descent from heaven), whereby bureaucrats “retire” into lucrative private-sector and quasi-government entity positions in industries they once oversaw.

“This is something that we need to explain to the public’s satisfaction,” Sengoku said, indicating he may push every Cabinet member to investigate how their ministries are handling the problem.