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2008年5月29日 (木)


05/29/2008 --The Asahi Shimbun, May 28(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2008)

EDITORIAL: Agency for consumers


Everyone is a consumer and citizen. Under Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's initiative, his administration intends to become more consumer-oriented with the creation of a consumer affairs agency. Plans based on that idea are gradually taking shape.


What kind of organization is it aimed to be? A government panel to promote the consumer administration concept that is made up of experts on consumer affairs has come up with a blueprint.


The planned agency will cover a broad range of problems that concern the safety and security of consumers.


Of laws that fall under the jurisdiction of different ministries and agencies, those that have to do with the everyday life of consumers will be transferred to the new agency, which will advise other ministries as needed. This is the gist of the proposal.


The image is that of a consumer administration command post with authority and responsibilities.


Up to now, many ministries and agencies have attached importance to the promotion and development of industries.


Even when they have sections to protect consumers, since different government offices are in charge of different areas, it is difficult for people to know where to take their complaints and seek advice.


There is also a lack of communication between government offices. Because of sectionalism, some cases cannot be dealt with promptly.


Such systematic inadequacy became clear due to the poor response of government offices in dealing with accidents caused by home appliances, mislabeling of food products and the case of toxic frozen gyoza dumplings.



If the functions for dealing with consumer administration could be unified and the necessary authorities brought together, it would be very helpful in protecting the people's lives and livelihoods. We support the establishment of a consumer affairs agency.


But watching various moves by government offices in Kasumigaseki and the actual situation in regions across Japan, we have some concerns.


First, can the government really strip ministries and agencies of their legal jurisdiction, power and staff and transfer them to the new agency as envisioned in the blueprint?



In this regard, as expected, relevant ministries and agencies are putting up resistance.


put up resistance=抵抗する)

The transfer of some 30 laws, including the installment sales law, the Japanese Agriculture Standards Law and the Money Lending Control Law, to the new agency is being debated. However, those that ministries and agencies have agreed to hand over make up only a small portion of them.


the installment sales law=割賦販売法(月払い販売法、月賦販売法)

the Japanese Agriculture Standards Law=日本農林規格(JAS)法

the Money Lending Control Law=貸金業法

If the transfer of power and jurisdiction remains half-baked, there is no way the new agency will function properly. Fukuda, who came up with the idea in the first place, must act with determination and personally persuade related Cabinet ministers to agree to the proposed transfer.


Our second concern is local governments. Without exception, they are faltering in their direct dealings with consumers as they face financial difficulties.



Prefectural budgets for consumer administration in fiscal 2007 dropped to half, compared with about 10 years ago.


Some regions cut back on personnel.


cut back on=を減らす、削減する)

Unless this situation is rectified, there is no way of creating a flexible system to protect consumers.



Instead of leaving the matter entirely in the hands of local governments, the central government should consider providing financial support.


Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) also supports the idea that the administration must serve consumers first.


The ruling and opposition parties are urged to put their heads together to build an organization that can function effectively.


put their heads together=頭を寄せ合い、知恵を出し合い、協力し合って)

The important thing is not to create another imposing agency but to change the mentality of government offices to one that sees things from the viewpoint of consumers.



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 28(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2008)

朝日新聞5月28日号 (英語版 2008年5月29日発行)


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