Editer l'article Suivre ce blog Administration + Créer mon blog
Le blog de fukushima-is-still-news

information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Of the importance of trust

Editorial: Trust more than anything important for governance



As political parties' rush to prepare for the general election, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) announced his decision not to contest the election, citing his refusal to commit to the party's policy line -- a requirement in receiving party endorsement.

There's a tragic gap between the exit of Hatoyama, who has come to symbolize the DPJ administration's meandering leadership record, and the national excitement three years ago over the changeover in government, of which he was at the center. At least this time, Hatoyama made good on his word to retire from politics, a promise he once made and broke when stepping down from his post as prime minister.

So what was the biggest mistake that Hatoyama made as prime minister? The confusion he caused over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was undoubtedly a fatal error. However, it must be said that Hatoyama's failure to immediately establish the legal framework necessary to realize politician-led policymaking was just as costly.

In the upcoming lower house election, Japan's system of governance itself has come under question. The DPJ strayed off course from its attempt to break away from bureaucracy-centered politics, and a political gridlock persisted under a "twisted" Diet. Calls to revamp the Diet's fundamental structure, including the possible adoption of unicameralism, emerged, and there are signs of a revived push for the introduction of a popular vote for prime minister. As such, a debate over the nation's governing structure possess elements that could lead to pressure for constitutional revision. What kind of framework is conducive to a smooth political process? It is time to stare the reality of systemic fatigue in the face, and press forth with the debate.

To do so, a review of the DPJ administration of the past three years is crucial. To curb bureaucratic meddling in politics, the DPJ first entrusted decision making in each ministry to the "seimu sanyaku," or the three posts of minister, senior vice minister, and parliamentary secretary appointed from among legislators. Administrative vice minister meetings were abolished, and the Government Revitalization Unit's waste-cutting commission attracted widespread attention. Meanwhile, the creation of a framework -- including the legislation of the National Policy Unit (NPU), which would ideally serve as the command center for politician-led decision making, and a large-scale increase in senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries -- was left on the back burner.

As a result, in many ministries the "seimu sanyaku" were overburdened with administrative work that should have been left to bureaucrats, while the laying down of policy direction and accountability were abandoned. It's undeniable that communication between politicians and bureaucrats fell into disarray, and distrust and fear of rocking the boat spread.

In contrast, the Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda administrations were characterized more by an increased tendency to leave significant decision-making to bureaucrats. The diversion of reconstruction funds that recently caused a public uproar was the result of the central bureaucracy taking advantage of the administration and jockeying for a bigger share of the budget.

The question of redefining the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats remains wholly unresolved. Reducing red tape and allowing more flexibility in bureaucratic appointments would be the first step. A bill to centralize the personnel management of all senior ministry and agency officials by establishing a Cabinet personnel affairs bureau was submitted three times by the coalition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-New Komeito government and the DPJ government but has been met with the unfortunate fate of being scrapped. Postponement of pressing concerns such as this is no longer acceptable.

Learning from the lessons of the last three years, politicians must search for a system that will make full functional use of bureaucrats; it goes without saying that bureaucrat bashing must be avoided. Many issues await reform, including the budget-drafting process and the disclosure of public information.

The DPJ has upheld regional sovereignty reform as being on the same level of importance as politician-led decision making in achieving its goal of breaking with bureaucracy-centered politics. This is based on the idea that through decentralization and increased restriction on the role of central government offices, regional areas around the country will regain vitality, leaving more of the national government's manpower for other issues such as foreign diplomacy and defense, and economic policy.

The Act on the Forum for Deliberation between National and Local Governments was passed in 2011, pushing into motion the abolition and review of regulations that had until then allowed central government offices to restrict the administration of local municipalities. Regional administration has achieved increased freedom, and it is inappropriate to one-sidedly judge regional sovereignty reform as little more than an empty slogan.

Little headway was made, however, regarding items that faced fierce resistance from central government offices, such as the transfer of local branches of central government agencies to regional municipalities. Because debate had been pushed forward without a clear vision of the future distribution of roles between the central and regional governments, opinions were split even within regional municipalities.

In the next election, parties such as the LDP, the New Komeito and the Japan Restoration Party (JRP) are seeking debate on possible "doshusei" regional administrative reform -- reorganizing prefectural governments into larger local bodies. The system is indeed an attractive option in boldly assigning power to regional blocks and promoting decentralization.

However, in considering regional administrative reform, it is important to indicate a clear vision of the distribution of roles and authority between central and regional governments, as well as financial resource allocation. The fact that there was once a push for a centralized form of "doshu" administration must be examined. If "doshu" administration is to be introduced to facilitate decentralization, it's only logical to take a proactive stance toward the preliminary step of transferring local branches of central government agencies to regional municipalities.

As a step toward adopting the "doshu" system, the JRP is advocating that consumption tax be levied at the regional level, and the abolition of local tax grants. How does the party believe the burden should be shared between central and regional governments, at a time when social security costs are only expected to rise? If the party suggests that local taxes levied under current prefectural and municipal demarcations be used for fiscal management, it must explain how it will gain the approval of residents to do so.

The public's distrust toward politics was surely aggravated with the collapse of the DPJ's 2009 election manifesto, created without an adequate assessment of government coffers. It is of course important to come up with a governing structure, but politics does not function if the public cannot trust the political parties and the politicians that comprise the governing structure.

Constant alignment and realignment, in which politicians suddenly switch parties and compromise their fundamental policies shortly before an election, will only invite more distrust from voters. We would like to point out, once again, that recovered confidence in politics constitutes the most extensive foundation for governance.

Partager cet article
Pour être informé des derniers articles, inscrivez vous :
Commenter cet article