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2008年6月 4日 (水)


06/04/2008 --The Asahi Shimbun, June 3(IHT/Asahi: June 4,2008)

EDITORIAL: Reform state agencies


Japan has 101 dokuritsu gyosei hojin, or doppo (independent administrative agencies)--semi-governmental organizations supervised by ministries and agencies. These entities were created by the reorganization of public corporations or spinning off of operational divisions from ministries and agencies.


The Diet is now considering a bill to overhaul the system.


The reform legislation is basically reasonable, but with the current Diet session ending on June 15, the Diet is running out of time to work on it. The ruling and opposition camps should come to an agreement quickly and pass the legislation in the current session.


The push to reform the system came after strong criticism that such organizations are involved in too many unnecessary projects and often merely exist to provide plum jobs for retiring bureaucrats. The government-drafted bill contains several ideas that emerged from debate over the reform.



One idea proposes a new method of evaluating the performances of these government-affiliated organizations. Currently, they are assessed by special evaluation committees at the ministries and agencies that oversee them. Under the proposed system, all these entities would be evaluated by a new committee appointed by the prime minister.


The ratings assigned by the committees are too generous. For example, the evaluating committee at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries ranked Japan Green Resources Agency (J-Green)'s performance highly, at 4 out of a possible 5. J-Green is the same organization that was disbanded in March amid a bid-rigging scandal involving kickbacks to J-Green officials.


Having the authorities who oversee doppo organizations do the evaluations won't help trim inefficiency at the organizations. Government ministries and agencies tend to place high priority on protecting their own organizations.


Another proposal is to recruit the heads of the organizations and watchdog inspectors through a public hiring process. These outside executives would keep an eye on the organizations. The top posts have up to now often been handed to retiring bureaucrats through amakudari. These executive appointments would have to be approved by the Cabinet. The new formula may ensure that crucial positions will be filled by well-qualified applicants.


The bill would also require the organizations to return unused assets, such as housing and recreation facilities, to the government. This measure would bring in more than 600 billion yen worth of assets for public sale, according to an estimate by the government's administrative reform office.

Sale of the assets would generate new revenues for the debt-laden government.



All these measures would be steps toward the full overhaul of the doppo system. The doppo reform blueprint proposed by main opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) shares many elements with the government's bill.


Even if it is hard for Minshuto and the ruling coalition to agree completely on every component, they should work together to develop an acceptable compromise as quickly as possible.


Just because the Upper House is controlled by the opposition camp is no excuse for foot-dragging on such an important reform--one that can be achieved if there is enough political will.


While the proposed changes are important, the crucial thing to remember is that meaningful reform requires the elimination of all unnecessary entities.


In December, the government announced a plan to consolidate and streamline these organizations--but its efforts were tepid at best.



That plan will reduce the number of doppo entities to 86, mostly with simple mergers and by changing the status of some organizations to public corporations.

Still, many of the remaining entities don't seem to have any good reason to exist.


To be sure, some organizations deserve to be kept because they provide valuable public services, such as the promotion of science and technology and culture.


But the government must continue its consolidation process by rigorously assessing the value of the services provided by these entities. Organizations and projects that are no longer needed must be scrapped.



--The Asahi Shimbun, June 3(IHT/Asahi: June 4,2008)

朝日新聞6月03日号 (英語版 2008年6月04日発行)


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