<   2009年 06月 ( 25 )   > この月の画像一覧

郵政株主総会 西川社長再任は条件付きだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 30, 2009)
Nishikawa's return subject to conditions
郵政株主総会 西川社長再任は条件付きだ(6月30日付・読売社説)

Will the reappointment of Japan Post Holdings' incumbent directors improve the corporate culture of the scandal-tainted company?

The government, as the company's sole stockholder, approved the reappointment of all of Japan Post Holdings' nine directors, including Yoshifumi Nishikawa as president, at a general meeting of shareholders held at its head office in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, on Monday. The decision on personnel was then finalized with the approval of Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tsutomu Sato, who is responsible for overseeing Japan's postal system.

The government decided to let the current management continue to operate Japan Post after it examined and accepted the company's responses to its business improvement order--imposed after the envisaged sale of Kampo no Yado hotels and resort facilities at unreasonably low prices came to light--and the company's punitive actions against the employees involved, including pay cuts for Nishikawa and the other directors.

However, a majority of the public are very critical of Nishikawa's reappointment, according to several opinion polls. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan said that it would fire Nishikawa if the party wins the upcoming House of Representatives election and takes power. Nishikawa should run the company in a humble manner, considering his reappointment as Japan Post president is subject to conditions.

The bidding on the Kampo no Yado hotels was handled in a very suspicious way with higher bids not chosen and no record kept of the negotiation process.


Staff held accountable

Four of the company's senior officials, who came from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and were known as "Team Nishikawa," have been held responsible for that and will be dismissed soon to return to the bank. But, Nishikawa, too, bears heavy responsibility for letting his staff get out of control.

According to the company's business improvement plan, Japan Post will establish a new management advisory committee to monitor its problem-plagued management system. The company will also create a new post of chairman and appoint one of the external board members to the post. The chairman will double as head of the committee. To accomplish the improvement plan's aims, the current external board members who overlooked the scandals should not stay, but should be replaced with new members invited from outside the company.

According to Japan Post's plan, the Kampo no Yado enterprise, which is the original cause of the whole problem, posted a deficit of 5.4 billion yen in fiscal 2008 but should move into the black in fiscal 2011.

The turnaround is intended to allow Japan Post to sell the resort facilities at higher prices, but can Japan Post end the hotels' chronic deficits through only such conventional measures as developing a new customer base and reducing labor costs?


Deadline looming

The Kampo no Yado hotels are required to be either sold or shut down and liquidated by autumn 2012. If business conditions remain tough, such as lingering doldrums in real estate prices, Japan Post should consider the option of disposing of those facilities with huge deficits first, but waiting for better circumstances to sell the others.

In the privatization of postal services, it is necessary to both promote efficiency and and preserve the universality of services such as mail delivery. We must closely monitor the postal service privatization to prevent it from focusing exclusively on efficiency and make it an instance of privatization the public can consider a success as the internal affairs and communication minister said.

Both Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance will be fully privatized by October 2017.

But, the two companies will be criticized for "oppressing private companies" if they try to expand their businesses to seek sufficient revenues in preparation for full privatization. It is essential for them to sufficiently explain their actions to win the public's understanding.

However, Nishikawa seems to be insincere at times as he refused to hold press conferences on some important occasions, such as when he gave the final business improvement report to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. We would like to ask him to be fully accountable as president of Japan Post Holdings.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2009)
(2009年6月30日01時59分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-30 17:51 | 英字新聞

日韓首脳会談 忍耐強く「北」に圧力をかけよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 29, 2009)
United front needed in confronting N. Korea
日韓首脳会談 忍耐強く「北」に圧力をかけよ(6月29日付・読売社説)

As long as North Korea does not change its provocative attitude, it is important for the international community to patiently continue to put pressure on the country.

During a summit meeting in Tokyo on Sunday, Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak reaffirmed that "Pyongyang's nuclear development poses a serious threat and is not acceptable." They also agreed on the importance of bilateral cooperation, as well as working with the United States, in dealing with North Korea, aiming for the "faithful implementation" of a U.N. Security Council resolution on sanctions against North Korea.

After North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006, the United States lifted its own financial sanctions against North Korea to get the country back to the six-party talks. In addition, the United States continued to take a soft approach by supplying heavy oil and removing the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

However, the process of verifying that Pyongyang's declared nuclear programs had been halted and all its existing nuclear facilities had been disabled was left unfinished.

The same mistakes should not be repeated. It is natural not to reward North Korea for returning to the six-party talks and it is indispensable to impose harsh punishment on reckless deeds that ignored the warnings of the international community.


China's role vital

The success of the U.N. Security Council resolution on sanctions against North Korea, including cargo inspections, depends on how China deals with North Korea because Beijing has a large influence on Pyongyang through trade and food and energy assistance.

China also clearly said that it will not allow possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea. Strengthening military deterrence among Japan, South Korea and the United States to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats is not desirable for China.

It is extremely important to continue to urge China to make a "responsible response" to North Korea, including putting pressure on the country.

Many observers pointed out that the aim of Pyongyang's missile launches and nuclear tests is not to just strengthen its bargaining chip against the United States, but also are tied to the domestic situation and the need to solidify the regime of the successor to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

If this is true, it is possible North Korea could turn a deaf ear to warnings by relevant countries and dare to launch longer-range missiles. The international community needs to prepare for a long war.


Deeper discussions

Meanwhile, it is important to discuss a new type of consultation in preparation for a future return of North Korea to the six-party talks. If the talks continue as five-party talks without North Korea, as proposed by Lee, such an occasion would be a good opportunity to deepen the discussion for that purpose.

The framework of the six-party talks itself is reasonable and it should be maintained in terms of the role it affords Japan in handling issues related to North Korea. Furthermore, participating countries should rack their brains for measures to apply the brakes to any future nuclear test by Pyongyang and ways to lead North Korea toward nuclear disarmament .

In Sunday's summit meeting, Aso and Lee also agreed to promote cooperation on assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on antipiracy efforts off Somalia.

Since the start of Lee's administration in February 2008, the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea has strengthened in a wide range of fields. We hope that the two countries will establish a stronger relationship of trust by achieving tangible results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2009)
(2009年6月29日01時43分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-29 08:15 | 英字新聞

平成農地改革 農業再生の第一歩となれば

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 28, 2009)
Farmland reform aims to revitalize agriculture
平成農地改革 農業再生の第一歩となれば(6月28日付・読売社説)

The idea of arresting the decline of agriculture by shifting the focus of the farmland system from ownership to effective use informs the revised Agricultural Land Law, which recently passed the Diet.

This is a major revision in that the owner-cultivator system maintained since the postwar farmland reform, which gave ownership of farmland to those who cultivate it, was overhauled. The revised law allows letting and leasing of farmland in principle and has eased regulations on the entry of corporate entities into agribusinesses.

The biggest problems that the nation's agriculture industry faces are a dearth of farmers and low productivity. It is an urgent task to promote the entry of corporations into the agribusiness sector as a major player in the industry and improve efficiency. The enactment of the revised law should serve as the first step toward revitalizing the nation's agricultural sector, and the so-called Heisei-era farmland reform should be carried out as soon as possible.


Fears over rise in land misuse

Farmland that companies may lease had been limited mainly to abandoned land. But under the new system, companies may also lease prime land. Tenure, which had been limited to 20 years, has been extended to 50 years.

At the same time, consolidation of farmland for lease is expected to be promoted. Regardless of who is the lessee, the government will provide subsidies to farmers who let their land. Municipal governments and agricultural cooperatives will systematically provide information on farmland available for lease to prospective lessees.

It will be easier to improve efficiency with the use of agricultural machinery if farmland is consolidated. It also is expected that abandoned farmland, which totals about 400,000 hectares nationwide, will be reduced by letting it in combination with prime farmland.

But there still is much work to do to ensure that farmland is used more efficiently.

There are concerns that the law revision may lead to an increase in the number of cases in which borrowed land is illegally diverted for such purposes as parking lots and garbage dumps.

In 2008 alone, farmland with an area equivalent to 121 Tokyo Domes was illegally diverted for other purposes. In 90 percent of such cases, local governments reportedly rubber-stamped the misuse of the land in question, thus benefiting those acting illegally.

Under the revised law, the upper limit of fines imposed on companies that illicitly use farmland for purposes other than farming has been raised from the previous 3 million yen to 100 million yen. But this toughened penalty will have only a limited effect.


Watchdogs must stay alert

Municipal governments' agricultural committees are in charge of checking whether farmland is being used illegally. But it is indispensable to drastically review the function of these committees. It is said that registries containing such information as the size of farmland and its ownership are not updated in some cases. Concerned officials should first grasp the actual situation in the areas they administer and crack down on the illegal use of farmland.

The increase in the maximum tenure period raises the risk that leased farmland will not be returned within the due period, or that it will be misused. If farmers, feeling concerned about such potential problems, become reluctant to let their land, the entry of companies into the agribusiness industry will not be facilitated. Companies will not be able to win trust from landowners if they withdraw from agribusinesses just because they failed to make a quick profit.

To ensure that the revised law does not end up pie in the sky, it is important for farmland letters and lessees to have mutual understanding. Pursuing efficiency and cost-effectiveness alone is unlikely to lead to the stable management of the agribusiness sector. Companies, as a vital player in the industry, must bear this in mind as they seek synergy with regional agriculture.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 28, 2009)
(2009年6月28日01時36分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-28 09:10 | 英字新聞

物価大幅下落 デフレ退治に最善を尽くせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 27, 2009)
Take every step to fight deflation
物価大幅下落 デフレ退治に最善を尽くせ(6月27日付・読売社説)

Are we seeing the start of a vicious circle in which both the economy and prices decline simultaneously?

The nationwide consumer price index fell 1.1 percent in May, year on year, recording the largest drop since the end of World War II.

The previous biggest fall in the CPI was 1 percent, recorded in May 2001. At that time, the Bank of Japan was fighting deflation, using the quantitative easing policy for the first time.

Prices have dropped more steeply than those at that time, and the pace of decline is expected to quicken.

In the summer of 2000, the central bank lifted its zero-interest-rate policy on the strength of its optimistic view on the outlook for the economy. The move aggravated deflation.

This time, one misstep could lead to deflationary spiral. Now that the economy has shown slight signs of recovery, every measure needs to be taken to fight deflation.

The effects of falls in crude oil and grain prices, which skyrocketed last year, are huge. However, prices of items excluding gasoline and food are increasingly falling. Even disregarding these special factors, current circumstances will tend to push the economy further into deflation.


Domestic demand anemic

One major factor is the slump in domestic demand, including consumption.

Department store sales have posted declines for 15 months in a row, and supermarket sales have fallen for six straight months.

Many stores have cut the prices of items they sell and brought forward summer sales. This is because goods tend not to sell unless they are marked down. Department stores are struggling to sell clothing items, but low-price brand stores are doing good business.

With shrinking incomes due to corporate restructuring and cuts in overtime work, households are have been sharply reining in their spending. As a result, companies are engaged in price wars, leading to a decline in profits. This in turn translates into wage cuts.

Curtailing spending is the right choice for individuals, but at the macroeconomic level, it prolongs a slump. In this regard, deflation is an intractable disease that robs an economy of dynamism.

One major problem is the 45 trillion yen demand-supply shortfall. So that the effects of current economic measures can kick in, the government must come up with new policies seamlessly.

Measures that can boost demand--such as programs to fight unemployment, aid for medical and nursing care, and promotion of growing businesses, such as those in the environmental and energy-saving fields--must be given priority. Belt-tightening polices such as across-the-board cuts in social security spending are a no-no under deflation.


Quantitative easing needed

If pessimistic views that deflation will deepen prevail, the economic situation may drastically deteriorate.

To combat the financial crisis that started in autumn, the Bank of Japan has supplied a large amount of funds to the market by purchasing long-term government bonds and corporate bonds, and the market has calmed down.

The main battlefield of monetary policy likely will shift to deflation. The central bank would be advised to come up with comprehensive quantitative easing measures with numerical targets and pledge those measures will be maintained until prices start to rise.

The Bank of Japan needs to show its determination to fight against the malignancy of deflation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2009)
(2009年6月27日01時28分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-27 09:41 | 英字新聞

官製談合 あきれ果てた国交省の体質

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 26, 2009)
Transport ministry needs to recheck its checks
官製談合 あきれ果てた国交省の体質(6月26日付・読売社説)

Another bid-rigging case involving officials at the Construction and Transport Ministry has bubbled to the surface. The ministry needs to seriously reflect on the preventive measures it has taken following previous scandals.

Suspecting that ministry officials were involved in bid-rigging practices related to official vehicle services for the ministry's Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau, the Fair Trade Commission issued the ministry with a remedial action under a law that forbids collusive bidding by government officials.

The FTC issued the order, citing a violation of the Antimonopoly Law, to stop bid-rigging practices by 10 companies that had won contracts for official vehicle services for the ministry's Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau and eight other regional bureaus, slapping the firms with a total of about 2.6 billion yen in penalties.

Former ministry officials who landed lucrative posts at these private companies are said to be involved in bid-rigging concerning contracts of the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau and five regional bureaus.


Flawed logic

Collusive bid-rigging practices by government officials have occurred repeatedly at the Construction and Transport Ministry. Not only is it the only ministry that has been ordered to take remedial action, it is also the second time it has been ordered to do so, the first coming after a bid-rigging scandal concerning floodgate construction projects in 2007.

In 2008, the then director general of the ministry's Hokkaido Bureau was arrested on suspicion of interfering with a public tender by preadjusting the prices on bids for improvement work on the Ishikarigawa river during his time as a department chief of the ministry's Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau. He was convicted on the charges.

Behind all of this lies the collusion and cozy ties of former bureaucrats who work for private companies after leaving the ministry. A pattern forms in which current ministry officials leak information on public biddings and award orders to companies at which their former superiors and colleagues now work.

In this latest bid-rigging story, more than 50 former ministry officials took on jobs at the three companies that were awarded most of the orders.

The 2008 bid-rigging case involving the head of the ministry's Hokkaido Bureau was partly aimed at ensuring that bureaucrats would have lucrative jobs when they enter the private sector. However, the Sapporo District Court in its verdict criticized this as a selfish motive based on the institution's flawed logic.


Outside oversight a good start

In response to the 2007 bid-rigging scandal concerning floodgate projects and the 2008 scandal of the Hokkaido Bureau chief, the Construction and Transport Ministry on both occasions compiled reports through committees that included outside experts examining the cases. The committees proposed reviews of bid contract methods and the nature of reemployment for retired ministry officials, as well as a strengthening of compliance.

The committee said in a report submitted at the end of April that the management of ministry staff, including any reemployment at private companies, should be handled in an integrated manner by the development administration department of the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau.

The report aims to prevent senior officials at each operating division, such as rivers and ports and harbors projects, from engaging in bid-rigging in an attempt to secure jobs in private companies after retirement.

However, in the bid-rigging related to ministerial vehicle services, it was the chief and deputy chief of the development administration department of the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau who relayed bidding information to former bureaucrats working at private companies.

The ministry again set up a committee to examine this case. However, there also needs to be a look into past preventive measures.

Ensuring the efficacy of preventative measures is crucial. Just this month, the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau appointed an FTC official for the newly created post of bid contract inspector. This move--the hiring of an outside expert--is one of the ways to help ensure the strength of the inspection department.

With the move to decentralize administrative power, the review of branch ministerial offices, including regional development bureaus, has become an important task. The current situation in which these matters lie beyond the reach of local assemblies and residents should be changed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2009)
(2009年6月26日01時59分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-26 11:06 | 英字新聞

公文書管理 法律はできたが課題も多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 25, 2009)
New archive law marks start of major change
公文書管理 法律はできたが課題も多い(6月25日付・読売社説)

The nation's national archive system, which has not performed as well as those of other countries, is set to fundamentally change.

A law on management and preservation of official state documents was enacted Wednesday that sets out the procedures for drawing up and managing documents by administrative authorities as well as rules covering their transfer to the National Archives of Japan. The law is expected to come into effect in April 2011.

As a democratic nation, it is the government's responsibility to preserve documents detailing policy decision-making processes and to fulfill its responsibility to make such information available to the public.

The law makes it clear that state documents are intellectual resources to be shared by all citizens to support the foundations of a healthy democracy. It also stipulates that people are allowed to proactively use such documents.

To meet the aims stated under the law, we must steadily work to better preserve and manage state documents.

Ministries and agencies currently preserve administrative documents for at least one year and up to 30 years. In the final fiscal year of the preservation period, a decision on whether to discard the information, transfer it to the National Archives of Japan, or extend the preservation period have been determined at the initiative of the relevant ministry or agency.


Logbooks, lists lost

National archives management has been so poor, however, that the logbooks of a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel were discarded before their preservation term had expired, and a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry document listing patients suspected of being infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood products was left in a storage area.

The new law stipulates that the consent of the prime minister is needed before documents are discarded and that administrative documents, which are valuable as historical materials, will be transferred to the National Archives of Japan in almost all cases.

However, the law, which was proposed by the government, does not cover Diet and court documents.


Archives law must be debated

A report compiled by an expert government panel in November sought to promote the transfer of documents drawn up by the Diet and courts to the National Archives of Japan. For that purpose, the panel has proposed a reorganization of the body that oversees the archives, changing it from its current status as an independent administrative corporation to a special administrative corporation.

The Diet resolution accompanying enactment of the law stated that an examination must be made of how the National Archives of Japan should be reformed. Thorough discussion of the issue is indeed needed to ensure the new plan quickly takes shape.

The expansion of the National Archives of Japan will be a big task. It has been pointed out that the capacity of the main building, located in Kitanomaru Garden in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, will be reached within a decade. The current number of staffers is merely 42 people, in contrast to the 2,500 employed in the United States and 800 in Germany.

Archivists must be quickly trained. A change in the current mindset of officials at ministries and agencies toward preserving documents also should be promoted.

With progress of IT, the number of electronic documents has greatly increased in recent years, making it necessary to draw up rules for the efficient management of electronic documents.

Many tasks need to be tackled, but we must steadily promote the preservation of documents by taking a long-term view and seeing this project as one concerning the very basis of our nationhood.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 25, 2009)
(2009年6月25日01時33分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-25 09:43 | 英字新聞

西川社長続投 理解得られぬ甘い「けじめ」

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 24, 2009)
Public won't accept Nishikawa reappointment
西川社長続投 理解得られぬ甘い「けじめ」(6月24日付・読売社説)

A settlement has been reached, but it will not satisfy most of the public.

It has effectively been decided that Japan Post Holdings Co. President Yoshifumi Nishikawa will stay in his post.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tsutomu Sato said Monday he had decided to authorize the proposed reappointment of Nishikawa after the president informed him that Japan Post's five executives, including himself, would take self-disciplinary pay cuts.
Sato also said Prime Minister Taro Aso had approved the decision.


Questions remain unanswered

The biggest issue now facing Japan Post are questions revolving around the attempted sale of its Kampo no Yado nationwide network of resort hotels.

Why did Japan Post attempt to sell 70 resort facilities developed at the hefty cost of 240 billion yen for a mere 10.9 billion yen?

The process behind Japan Post's sloppy procedures for the attempted sale of the facilities, which went unchallenged, must be fully explained. The firm even admitted a lack of records concerning the process of selecting a buyer, which is unthinkable for a private company.

The ministry issued Japan Post with a business improvement order in April, asking it to explain these points. However, Sato endorsed Nishikawa's reappointment after only being given a brief explanation of what occurred. Japan Post was scheduled to submit its final report on the matter Wednesday.

Many questions remain unresolved. The impression cannot be easily dismissed that Sato, having judged that prolonged confusion is damaging, rushed to draw a line under the issue.

Many problems also remain in terms of Japan Post's disciplinary action against its top management.

Nishikawa promised Sato he would immediately dismiss executives he had recruited from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. where he once served as president. But Nishikawa himself will do no more than give up 30 percent of his pay over the next three months. This is too lenient.

Questions were raised over the disciplinary measures proposed by Nishikawa, even from within the Liberal Democratic Party, with LDP General Council Chairman Takashi Sasagawa saying, "Resignation is his best option if he's admitted responsibility [by taking a pay cut]."
Criticism of Nishikawa is growing within the opposition parties, who are demanding a thorough debate of the matter.

After all that has occurred, only one outcome would be satisfactory--Nishikawa should voluntarily resign.

The business improvement measures presented so far by Japan Post also are questionable in terms of their likely effectiveness.

Japan Post said that to strengthen supervision of its management it will establish the post of chairman, above the post of president. The chairman also would concurrently chair a newly set up management advisory council.

However, Japan Post plans to appoint the chairman from the ranks of its outside directors. Can this cosy system, formed of the firm's unchanged current top management lineup, be sure to strengthen oversight of the company?


Responsibility rests with PM

The final responsibility for approving Nishikawa's reappointment rests with Aso.

The prime minister dismissed former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kunio Hatoyama earlier this month for having confused matters regarding the reappointment of Nishikawa--a decision that lacked any sense of balance.

With a view to replacing Nishikawa, Aso several months ago handed Hatoyama a list of candidates to succeed the president. Hasn't the confusion been caused by Aso's about-face rather than actions of Hatoyama?

It appears inevitable that Aso will face growing criticism over his role in this affair.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2009)
(2009年6月24日01時36分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-24 09:47 | 英字新聞


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by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-23 17:46 | アドセンス

日航公的支援 「親方日の丸」から脱却せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 23, 2009)
JAL should end dependence on govt
日航公的支援 「親方日の丸」から脱却せよ(6月23日付・読売社説)

The government has officially decided to provide financial support to Japan Airlines, which has been suffering from poor business results, since it apparently can no longer allow Japan's flag-carrier to further decline.

Support for JAL will include an emergency loan worth 100 billion yen to be extended jointly by the government-backed Development Bank of Japan and three major private banks with the government guaranteeing 80 percent of the loan. Along with securing the loan, the government also will directly supervise the reconstruction of the airline.

It is unusual for the government to support a private company with such a huge loan, but taking into account the importance of the service JAL provides to the public and the impact it has on the national economy, the government may deem it imperative to act. JAL should fundamentally review its management, considering this its last opportunity to reform itself.

JAL reported post-tax losses of 63.1 billion yen for the business year ending in March 2009. The airline is expected to declare almost the same amount of losses in the business year to end March 2010, too. It climbed into the black in the business year ending March 2008 for the first time in three years, but returned to the red only one year later.


Combination hurt bottom line

The company's poor performance is attributed to the aftereffects of high fuel prices last year and a sharp decrease in passengers due to the global recession. The decrease in passengers on domestic routes, a major revenue source for All Nippon Airways Co., which is JAL's rival, was small. However, the number of passengers on international routes, a major revenue source for JAL, decreased by more than 10 percent compared to the previous period.

JAL has succeeded in cutting labor costs to a certain degree. But the airline has failed to reduce interest-bearing debts quickly and been slow in improving its balance sheet. The company also has delayed in changing its planes to smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft and investing money in a strategic manner.

It can no longer expect a turnaround through mere stopgap cost-cutting measures. JAL should study whether to continue unprofitable businesses, including the option of transferring them to other companies, while it needs to consider not just reducing the number of flights on money-losing routes, but dropping those routes altogether. Such drastic restructuring measures are essential for JAL.


Long history of bail-outs

The airline had received emergency loans from the DBJ to help it weather the poor business results it suffered due to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and other incidents in the past. With the addition of the latest loans, the total extended by the DBJ to JAL would exceed 300 billion yen.

JAL probably cannot refute criticism that the airline has not yet completed sufficient corporate restructuring, but has no qualms about relying on government-backed bank loans because it has not yet ended its dependence on the government stemming from its days as a government-affiliated company.

JAL cannot win the approval of the public for the government assistance it is to receive without reforming its corporate structure. Some observers point out that eight trade-specific unions at JAL are obstructing restructuring. It is also necessary to stick the knife of reform into such complicated labor-management relations.

Meanwhile, aviation authorities are partly responsible for JAL's poor performance because they have built nearly 100 airports around the country and put political pressure on the airline to open unprofitable routes.

In supporting JAL once again, the government and the ruling parties should take this opportunity to closely review past aviation policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2009)
(2009年6月23日01時33分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-23 10:33 | 英字新聞

地方制度答申 分権へ議会と監査を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 22, 2009)
Decentralization needs strong local pols, audits
地方制度答申 分権へ議会と監査を強化せよ(6月22日付・読売社説)

To promote decentralization, it is essential to improve the local government systems to which administrative work and authority are to be transferred. In addition to municipal mergers, it is important to strengthen local assemblies as well as auditing and oversight of local governments.

An advisory panel to the prime minister on local government has proposed that the incentives for the so-called Heisei-era megamergers end in March. The panel also suggested that the megamerger campaign be followed by voluntary mergers, regional cooperation among municipalities and the establishment of administrative support systems by prefectural governments for small municipalities.

The government's megamerger campaign that started in 1999 has decreased the number of municipalities with populations of fewer than 10,000 by nearly 70 percent, with about 470 such municipalities remaining. The financial situation of municipal governments in depopulated mountainous areas or on remote islands is serious.

Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas have seen few municipal mergers. Even if it is not so problematic at this stage, financial burdens are expected to sharply rise in the mid- to long-term due to rapid aging of the population and renovation of public facilities.


Continue voluntary mergers

To strengthen administrative and fiscal bases of municipal governments, mergers remain a promising option. Voluntary mergers of municipalities should be encouraged, and systems for the central and prefectural governments to extend support for municipal mergers should remain in the future.

The panel called for widening the scope of public works projects and other matters for which assembly approval is required to conclude contracts, as well as the target of semipublic sector entities required to submit financial reports to local assemblies. These measures are expected to strengthen the oversight functions of local assemblies.

When decentralization moves forward, the role of local assemblies will become significantly larger. While universal criteria for setting up day care centers set by the central government are to be minimized, criteria that could be stipulated through ordinances passed by local assemblies are to significantly increase.

In such processes, it is unacceptable that local assembly members continue acting as go-betweens for particular interests or practicing pork-barrel politics.


Local government must change

Members of local assemblies must be well aware of the gravity of their responsibilities and are expected to change their attitudes. Local residents, for their part, should pay attention not only to local governments but also to local assemblies.

The panel's proposal included measures to strengthen auditing functions. The panel called for joint establishment of an auditing committee office by a number of municipalities and the introduction of a system under which local governments would undergo external auditing once in a couple of fiscal years.

These measures are aimed at helping small municipalities, which have difficulty in setting up an independent audit office or conducting external auditing every fiscal year, to expand their auditing functions.

To prevent another case of municipal bankruptcy like the city of Yubari in Hokkaido, local governments from this fiscal year under the law on local government fiscal health are obliged to make fiscal reconstruction plans in certain cases based on financial settlements in previous fiscal years.

It is important that each local government try to streamline administrative work without losing the substance of auditing functions but by incorporating third-party perspectives generated from external auditing.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2009)
(2009年6月22日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-22 07:29 | 英字新聞