- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Dorozoku

Terrie's Take, an email periodical by Terrie Loyd, founder of the Japan Inc Magazine, widely read among the foreign community in Tokyo, has an interesting article HERE about the tussle between the LDP and DJP over gasoline taxes in Japan. Terrie notes that the DJP is attempting to ride on the ever growing public cry against pork-barrel road building "doro-zoku" in the LDP and other parties and force tokutei zaidan gasoline tax revenues (a special gasoline tax currently ear-marked primarily for road building) to be used for other needs of society.

The first push seems to have been thwarted, however and the politicians have decided, for whatever reason, that tokutei zaidan gasoline tax revenues, will continue to be used only for these purposes. [if someone has more detail on how this came about I would be interested to hear]

So instead, DJP is using its power to stop the tokutei zaidan gasoline tax law from being renewed. However, it seems likely that DJP stalling techniques may instead simply force the tax to be dropped completely, which would bring the price of gasoline down in short order
, effectively subsidising road users at the expense of road builders.

Hmmmm. Now, you tell me which is worse, subsidising gasoline consumers, or subsidising road builders? They sound pretty damn similar to me. And in fact it is worse than this, because a large portion of the special tax on gasoline (the "tokutei zaidan") is in fact going towards paying down debts on past road building, as opposed to funding new porkbarrel roadworks.

The result would be simply a loss of legitimate revenue for the public purse (that a portion continues to be mis-allocated to wasteful projects is another issue) and the net impact a shot in the arm for a dying and desperate auto industry and oil consumers. I am quite pleased to see that the media is generally opposed to such a rediculous outcome in this day and age.

The auto industry may be dying a slow and painful death, but it is nothing compared to what will happen if we let this disease continue unchecked and metastasize into China and India...

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