Smooth transfer of power essential
The main lineup of the new cabinet in the administration of incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has been decided. Preparations need to be expedited so that the transfer of power can be smoothly realized in the launch of the new administration next week.
Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Naoto Kan will be appointed state strategy minister, a post to which DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama attaches the greatest importance. Party Secretary General Katsuya Okada and Hirofumi Hirano, head of the DPJ executives' secretariat, will assume the posts of foreign minister and chief cabinet secretary, respectively. DPJ Supreme Adviser Hirohisa Fujii is expected to be named finance minister.
The new cabinet is expected to tackle a number of difficult problems, but the business of governing the country requires constant effort and attention. Because the new cabinet is expected to include many who have no cabinet experience, there are both expectations of and anxieties about the incoming administration.
Because the sources of revenue to fund the child allowance program and other new policies still remain uncertain, how will the new government compile the fiscal 2010 budget while paying attention to economic stimulus measures? How will it deal with the U.N. General Assembly and the Group of 20 financial summit scheduled for later this month?
To minimize confusion after its launch, the new cabinet needs to make effective use of the run-up period prior to the special Diet session on Sept. 16 and coordinate policies both within the party and with other parties.
It is important to closely examine the party's election pledges and prioritize them on the basis of how urgent the need is for their implementation.
It will not be acceptable for the new government to waste time in setting up new organs, such as the national strategy bureau that will be under the direct control of the prime minister, and reviewing the rules governing the interaction between policymakers and bureaucrats, consequently delaying the undertaking of the cabinet's essential tasks.
It is desirable for the new government to hold detailed discussions to the greatest extent possible not only on personnel affairs concerning high-ranking government officials but also new systems and rules before it takes office.
The national strategy bureau, to be headed by Kan, will assume the role of drawing up principles for drafting the budget and charting the broad outlines of foreign policy, in addition to comprehensively coordinating policies.
The bureau will also act as the control tower for the new government to carry out the DPJ policy of ending the deference of the nation's political circles to bureaucrats.
Tackling the bureaucracy
Kan dealt with problems caused by HIV-tainted blood products as health and welfare minister in the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake (Pioneers). Subsequently, as an opposition member, he pursued various other problems, such as wasteful spending by bureaucrats and the so-called amakudari practice in which retiring high-ranking government officials take up lucrative jobs at agencies and other organizations they previously dealt with while public servants. Hatoyama decided to give the new post to Kan, apparently concluding that he is suited to reforming Kasumigaseki, the center of the country's bureaucracy.
We have no objections to "politician-led" politics and drastically cutting wasteful spending, but what is needed now is not playing to the gallery by bashing bureaucrats as opposition party members often do, but ideas and strategies to put bureaucrats under the government's control.
Okada, who is to assume the post of foreign minister, is well-versed in policy and has built personnel connections in the United States and other countries through his visits overseas. On the other hand, as he is often derided as a fundamentalist, some have voiced concerns over rigidity in his policies.
As for the new government's diplomatic policies, concerns have been expressed over Japan-U.S. relations because of the DPJ's coalition with the SDP and Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece published in The New York Times that caused a stir by expressing views that appeared to be critical of the United States.
If Japan-U.S. relations became unstable, it will cast a shadow on the Asia-oriented diplomacy the DPJ emphasizes. It will be necessary for the new government to pay careful attention to building a relationship of trust between Japan and the United States.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2009)