Noda promises rethink on bureaucrats’ luxury apartments

10/01/2011
By

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

TOKYO (majirox news) — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda promised Sept. 30 to rethink a controversial plan to use 10.5 billion yen ($136 million) to build luxury apartments for bureaucrats.

Noda has come under increasing criticism regarding the project he revived after it had once been frozen for its excessive cost, and is now apparently backtracking again.

“I accept the criticism with sincerity and will visit the site, then gather my thoughts and make a final decision,” Noda said, referring to the multi-billion yen swank housing project for national government officials in Asaka, Saitama prefecture.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been at the forefront of criticizing Noda for the project as a waste of taxpayers’ money, initially approved the project while it still held the reins of government in 2008.

After taking power in 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) carried out a review of all government projects and deemed the housing plan to be of “dubious necessity.” The project was subsequently frozen.

Noda, who has close ties to the Ministry of Finance, which he oversaw as minister from June 2010 until becoming prime minister last month, revived the project in December last year while serving as Finance Minister. Construction work on the project began Sept. 1, the day before Noda became prime minister.

With a struggling economy and the country striving to pay the enormous cost of recovering from the March 11 disasters, government expenditure has come under increasing criticism, especially when it is directed toward benefits for public servants, who have guaranteed lifetime employment and numerous other benefits uncommon for much of the workforce.

Noda, however, remained committed to building the posh apartments, arguing in a Diet committee meeting during the week that he had no intention of stopping the Saitama prefecture housing project. His stance raised the ire of LDP politicians, whose intensity of opposition to the project grew over the week, apparently prompting a softening in the prime minister’s attitude.

Meanwhile, Noda also told reporters at a news conference to mark the end of the extraordinary Diet session that the government would have a brand new energy basic plan formulated by next summer and that his “basic awareness” of the nuclear crisis as a “difficult situation” remained unchanged.

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