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2011年1月16日 (日)


(Mainichi Japan) January 15, 2011
Appointment of aging politicians to top Cabinet posts comes as a surprise

The focal point in the Cabinet reshuffle on Jan. 14 is undoubtedly the appointments of 78-year-old Hirohisa Fujii as deputy chief Cabinet secretary and 72-year-old Kaoru Yosano as state minister for economic and fiscal policy and social security reform.

The two, who had belonged to the University of Tokyo baseball club, share basic economic and fiscal policy. Both of them have attached importance to rehabilitating the debt-ridden state's finances and emphasized that sufficient financial resources must be secured to establish a sustainable social security system.

Fujii served as finance minister in the non-Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition Cabinets of Morihiro Hosokawa and Tsutomu Hata in the early 1990s. He was again appointed as finance minister in the Cabinet of Yukio Hatoyama, who took over the reins of government from the LDP in 2009.

The post of deputy chief Cabinet secretary is viewed as the gateway to success for younger politicians. In the previous LDP-led administration, many successful politicians assumed the post as the first step up the ladder of their careers. Former ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Ichiro Ozawa also served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary in the administration of former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.

However, unlike most of those who have assumed the post, Fujii is the second oldest DPJ legislator next only to former House of Representatives Vice Speaker Kozo Watanabe. Fujii resigned as finance minister during his tenure last year because of illness.

There had been signs that Fujii would assume the post despite his advanced age.

Several days before the reshuffle, Fujii consulted with then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku -- who was under pressure to step down because he had been slapped with a censure motion by the opposition-controlled House of Councillors -- over the lineup of a new Cabinet.

In their talks, Fujii told Sengoku that in 1968, then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato demoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Toshio Kimura to deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Fujii then explained to Sengoku that Sato appointed influential legislator Shigeru Hori as Kimura's successor in order to stabilize his administration.

As a result, the Sato Cabinet became the longest-serving administration in Japan's post-war history.

Fujii then urged Sengoku to stay in the prime minister's office by all means.

In response, Sengoku offered to assume the post of deputy chief Cabinet secretary on condition that Fujii replace him as chief Cabinet secretary.

In declining Fujii said, "I don't have enough physical strength to do so," but at that point Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his administration appeared to have begun considering appointing Fujii as deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Fujii, who is an expert in tax and fiscal policy, has led intraparty discussions on tax system reform as head of the DPJ's tax and social security system reform, while getting some ideas from a government report on such reform compiled under the LDP-led administration.

Yosano, who served as finance minister in the Cabinet of Taro Aso of the LDP, set up an advisory panel on tax and social security system reform that compiled the report.

Fujii was then deemed as the right person to mediate between Kan and Yosano.

Japan has been drifting since the speculation-driven, asset-inflating bubble economy burst in the early 1990s.  バブル崩壊後、日本は漂流を続けている。

The government must put the brakes on Japan's drift and establish a sustainable social security system as the population is rapidly aging.

The appointments of these influential politicians who are over 70 to these posts came as a surprise to most members of the public. However, pessimism alone cannot stop Japan's drift. (By Takakazu Matsuda, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年1月15日 東京朝刊


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