Road public corporations privatized

The bills to privatize four highway-related public corporations became law after passage by the House of Councilors plenary session on June 2 by the force of majority of the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties. The Japanese Communist, Democratic, and Social Democratic parties voted against.

Road assets and the present debts of 40 trillion yen will be put under the control of an independent administrative institution. The privatized companies will run the expressways and construct new roads which they lease from the asset management institution.

Prior to the vote, JCP representative Miyamoto Takeshi took the floor to point out that the bills will pave the way for expressways to be continually constructed and that the accumulated debt of 40 billion yen will further rise because of the construction of more new expressways.

He added that the bills do not take into account health problems that may arise among residents near the highways, environmental destruction, and adverse impacts on local economies.

The bills will leave in place or even strengthen the mechanism that allows politicians, bureaucrats, and business to maintain their cozy relations.

He argued that a true reform of highway-related public corporations is to review all the construction plans, freeze new highway construction, pay off the debts without increasing people's burden, prohibit retired bureaucrats from getting high positions in the corporations, and prohibit political donations from companies under public road projects contracts.

Since Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro expressed an interest in privatizing the road-related corporations two years ago, the issue has been a centerpiece of the so-called "Koizumi reform". (end)

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