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2009年9月14日 (月)

政治主導 官僚を敵視せず使いこなせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 14, 2009)
Don't vilify bureaucrats--employ their expertise
政治主導 官僚を敵視せず使いこなせ(9月14日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan says the transfer of the reins of government offers a good opportunity to take power out of the hands of bureaucrats and put it into lawmakers' hands. But politician-led government should be a means to an end--the formulation and implementation of better policies--not an end in itself.

Keeping this in mind, we hope the DPJ operates the new administration in a way that brings about tangible results.

The DPJ has drawn up a framework for a politician-initiated decision-making system under which about 100 of the party's lawmakers will be placed in ministries and agencies, a national strategy bureau under the direct control of the prime minister will be set up as a "control tower," politicians will decide on and coordinate policies through committees comprising cabinet ministers tasked with working in particular policy fields, and the administrative vice ministers' meeting will be abolished.

Using the opportunity provided by the transfer of administrative power, the DPJ aims to eliminate collusive bidding practices conducted at the initiative of government officials and wasteful spending of taxpayers' money by targeting bureaucrats' vested interests. We have no objection to that. It is important to clarify the roles of politicians and bureaucrats and then create new rules that reflect that distinction.


Precedent not sacred

Now is also a good chance to end the custom of following precedent without careful consideration and reexamine past practices. One example of how this could be achieved is the DPJ's pledge to investigate a purported secret Japan-U.S. pact allowing the entry into Japan of U.S. nuclear-armed naval vessels and aircraft, which Foreign Ministry officials are said to have long regarded as untouchable.

The basis of politician-led politics is that lawmakers picked by the public make decisions by themselves on important policies, thereby assuming responsibility for them. As high-priority tasks for the new cabinet will be tackled using a top-down approach, the concept behind the national strategy bureau makes sense.

It is true that current cabinet meetings are largely ceremonial. It is, therefore, significant that a small number of concerned ministers will discuss the nitty-gritty of policies at cabinet committees and coordinate them.

On the other hand, if the DPJ asserts its determination to realize lawmaker-led politics, lawmakers must master policy details and handle the bureaucracy skillfully. Unless they make good use of bureaucrats' expertise, administrative functions will deteriorate.

In recent years, the number of people applying to become central government officials has been declining. One reasons for this is said to be increasing criticism of public servants due to repeated revelations of bureaucratic misconduct. If the government cannot secure talented human resources, administrative work will be impeded, which will have an adverse effect on the people. It will also end up harming the nation's international competitiveness.


Relationship of trust crucial

In Britain, whose system of government the DPJ looks to as a model, there is criticism that there are too many ruling party lawmakers in the government, which is said to hamper administration.

The DPJ should not resort to bureaucrat-bashing to win the public's support as it did when it was an opposition party. It should refrain from opposing government personnel nominees requiring approval from both chambers of the Diet on the ground that they are former bureaucrats. Instead, it should make personnel appointments based on ability.

So politicians can make correct decisions, it is indispensable that they have a relationship of trust with bureaucrats, who provide fresh information and ideas. Rather than taking a hostile view of bureaucrats, it is important for lawmakers to make maximum use of their expertise.

Bureaucrats, for their part, should not forget their primary responsibility is to stay politically neutral and serve the people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2009)
(2009年9月14日01時19分  読売新聞)


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