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2008年6月10日 (火)


2008/6/10 --The Asahi Shimbun, June 7(IHT/Asahi: June 10,2008)

EDITORIAL: Greedy bureaucrats


The deep-rooted culture of sleaze in Japan's officialdom shows no signs of abating. We recently learned that hundreds of bureaucrats have accepted cash and other gifts from the drivers of taxis they used for returning home late at night. Many of them were officials at the Finance Ministry and the National Tax Agency, guardians of the nation's fiscal rectitude who are responsible for collecting taxes and making sure that the money is allocated to use wisely without waste.



(sleaze=低俗なもの、下品さ) (officialdom=役人の地位、官界) (abating=衰える、減少する、減る、少なくなる) (rectitude=公正、厳正)

One official at the Finance Ministry received cash and gift certificates on hundreds of occasions worth at least 1.5 million yen in total over five years. Eighteen officials accepted gift coupons, while 364 others were given cans of beer, tea and other refreshments.


(新聞社のプロ翻訳家の翻訳でも翻訳ミスはある、上が好例で日本語の意味と少しだけ食い違っている by srachai)

But the Finance Ministry is not alone. The questionable practice of accepting money and gifts from taxi drivers has been uncovered at 12 other ministries and agencies. The government is now investigating the practice. It seems likely that the number of organizations and people involved in the scandal will grow. The inquiry must be conducted rigorously, and the results must be fully published.



These facts came to light because Akira Nagatsuma, a Lower House member of Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), asked all the ministries and agencies to investigate the suspected practice.


Nagatsuma also helped shed light on the slipshod method of keeping pension records and wasteful spending of tax revenues earmarked for road construction. A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable for government organizations to respond seriously to an opposition lawmaker's request that they look into a potential scandal of their own and report on the findings.


shed=問題を解明する、明かりで照らす) (slipshod=だらしない、みだれた)

This clearly demonstrates the beneficial effects of the current divided control of the Diet, which has greatly bolstered the opposition camp's political power. Minshuto and other opposition parties are in a perfect position to hold the government accountable.


bolster=強める、元気づける) (accountable=責任がある、釈明の義務がある)

It is hard to imagine that these bureaucrats had no qualms about receiving kickbacks of cash and gifts from cabbies for so many years. It seems that many bureaucrats have become regular customers of specific cab drivers and would call them by cellphone to make use of their services. They received favors in return for their patronage. This is a really distressing story. The government must carry out an exhaustive probe to find out whether some bureaucrats, in egregious misconduct, entered larger amounts than the actual fare in taxi tickets and received kickbacks.それにしても、長年にわたりタクシーから金品やキックバックを得ていた神経はどうかしている。多くの者がなじみの運転手をつくり、携帯で呼び出して見返りを得ていたのではないか。なんとも情けない。料金以上の金額をタクシー券に記入して見返りを受ける悪質な例がないかについても、厳しく調べなければならない。

(qualms=良心の呵責) (distressing=苦しめる、悩ます) (exhaustive=完全な、徹底的な) (egregious=とてもひどい、とてつもな)


There is nothing wrong with taxi drivers trying to outdo their rivals in offering better services to customers. Many readers must have been pleasantly surprised to be offered wet hand towels or pocket tissues when taking a taxi.



But taxi tickets used by government employees are funded with taxpayer money, not by their own money. Thus, officials should show more sensitivity to the fact that they can contribute to cuts in government spending by asking for fare discounts when they are offered cash and gifts. The government bodies should have negotiated discount contracts with the operators of taxi services, instead of allowing their employees to enjoy the perks. By accepting money and gifts instead of asking for fare discounts, these officials have crossed the line of bureaucratic ethics. They cannot evade accusations of effectively pocketing taxpayer money.


perks=役人の立場を利用した役得) (cross the line=一線を超える) (ethics=倫理、道徳) (evade=免れる、逃れる、避ける、よける)

One of the biggest challenges facing the government is to regain fiscal health amid growing calls in recent years for spending cuts. Meantime, the culture of corruption within the Japanese bureaucracy remains unchanged. Given many similar sordid stories and the profligate way in which ministries and agencies spend their recreational budgets, bureaucrats appear to regard taxpayer money as their own. These episodes only subject all bureaucrats, including honest and hard-working ones, to public suspicion.


(sordid=きたない、みすぼらしい、むさくるしい) (profligate=不品行な、不道徳な、放蕩な)

How can swelling welfare costs due to the aging population be financed? It will become necessary to cut expenditures in other areas and place an additional tax burden on the public to cover growing social security costs. With the newly introduced health care insurance system for elderly people harshly criticized, time for action is running out.


A social welfare program is unsustainable unless there is public trust in the government. Is this government and its employees up to the challenge? This is a question that has been raised by the taxi scandal.



--The Asahi Shimbun, June 7(IHT/Asahi: June 10,2008)

朝日新聞 6月07日号 (英語版 2008年6月10日発行)


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