From late April, the Hatoyama administration will start a second round of scrutinizing expenditure, this time targeting government-linked public service corporations and independent administrative agencies. In November the administration scrutinized a raft of budget requests in full view of the public, with the aim of reducing expenditure by ¥3 trillion. Although the amount saved turned out to be only ¥670 billion, the process helped to alert the public to the problem of waste in the national budget.

Administrative reform minister Yukio Edano is conducting preliminary studies on 290 public service corporations and 98 independent administrative agencies in order to determine which will be subjected to full-scale examination. Seen as likely targets are 50 public service corporations included on a list of such bodies, made public by Mr. Edano, that have been criticized in the past by the Board of Audit or the Diet. Mr. Edano will make a final decision by mid-April.

The administration has already decided to have each ministry review the cost efficiency of its internal organization and scheduled projects. It is hoped costs can be cut by eliminating redundant projects and transferring certain functions to local governments.

The administration apparently hopes to generate some positive headlines and buoy its approval rating, but attracting attention must not be the driving motivation. The public has little knowledge of the work done by public service corporations and independent administrative agencies, many of which are funded in large part by taxpayers.

The Government Revitalization Unit will examine whether the work performed by the organizations in question is actually necessary, following up on concerns that some may exist only as “host employers” providing cushy jobs for retired bureaucrats. The unit will also examine whether the organizations have surplus funds that should be returned to the government. Some organizations’ raison d’etre will be questioned. The unit should carry out its work in a strict but fair manner, standing up to any resistance that might come from within ministries that oversee the organizations being scrutinized.

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