Japan Gasoline Tax / Road Levy Controversy

February 20, 2008

Here’s your background reading.

For most people, I guess there’s no controversy, it seems to be a battle between the governors teamed up with one political party against the party in charge. The governor’s taking on the central government is a bit unique because you often see the same kind of friction between the federal and state governments that you see in the U.S.

I say controversy because a recent tv news-variety show investigated where this road tax is going and found out that tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for road repairs has been spent buying karaoke sets and massage chairs. Other controversy involves all of the unfinished tunnels and roads, as well as roadwork done exclusively to convenience diet workers.

This article mentions some of the excessive spending (although it doesn’t mention the karaoke sets which were bought or the housing they built).

I quote the above article here:

  • “Recently it came to light that the Construction and Transport Ministry
    had spent part of the road-designated tax revenues to construct housing
    for its employees and even purchase massage chairs. The ministry faces
    a barrage of criticism for such wasteful spending of revenues for which
    it was responsible.”

One aspect of this story which is of interest for people who study Japan is the prefecture vs central government angle.

Another aspect to watch is the ubiquitous misappropriation of funds angle which often comes up in the news in Japan and then somehow fizzles out.

I’ll try to stay on top of this story.