[FOUNTAIN]The fiscal ‘night watch’

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[FOUNTAIN]The fiscal ‘night watch’

Among Japanese fishermen, the “30 billion yen ($254 million) fishing ground” is the ideal spot to fish. This is a newly built breakwater in Fukui, on the East Sea. For “balanced regional development,” the Japanese government poured in that money to create a seawall at a place where the water is over 10 meters deep.
A petrochemical complex was planned for the area, but is nowhere to be found. It made no sense from the start to build a large industrial complex near the restful seashore, when only 10 ships of over 10,000 tons pass by every year. Instead, this quiet and deep breakwater has turned into a fishing ground for those seeking a big catch.
The beautiful Ido Bridge in Kagoshima was built to “improve the quality of life for the outlying islanders” with a budget of 10 billion won. It was not important that only 100 households lived on the island. No need to consider that only 50 cars would use the bridge a day. What mattered was that “outlying islanders are also people.”
The young men of Ashibetsu, Hokkaido take turns standing guard at night, which prevents anyone from fleeing the town. During the bubble economy days, the town built a theme park, “Canadian World,” with government funds and bank loans, but the park went bankrupt. Each household was left with 80 million won in debt. “If people run away because of the debt, the debt burden will be that much greater for the remaining people.” For this reason, people are obsessed with the night watch.
The season for budgets has come. The National Assembly’s standing committee is busy gavelling and passing bills. A project for the installation of an information system in rural areas costs 97.6 billion won for the facility and 4.1 billion won for maintenance per year. Although estimated annual sales are a mere 111.6 million won, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs keeps on arguing for it, saying, “It is for reducing the regional information disparity and activating the rural communities.”
This is not all: 289 trillion won for national defense reform, 45 trillion won on administrative cities, 115 trillion won for balanced regional development, 6 trillion won for aid to North Korea, 112 trillion won for the rice market opening, and so on. Soon, 15 trillion won will be added to the list for a Honam high-speed railway. Not a single bill lacks justification. What matters is that the amount of money is hard to handle. The Ashibetsu story is not someone else’s story. Let’s hope we don’t have to take turns watching at night at the Incheon Internation-al Airport for neighbors fleeing to another country.


by Lee Chul-ho

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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