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2012年12月30日 (日)

次官連絡会議 真の「政治主導」を確立したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 30, 2012)
Real 'politician-led politics' should be pursued
次官連絡会議 真の「政治主導」を確立したい(12月29日付・読売社説)

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has nearly consolidated a politician-led government scheme and the political rules it aims to establish.

It must set up a system that will allow politicians and bureaucrats to cooperate in making policy decisions and implementing them swiftly. To this end, restoring the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats, which was strained under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, is indispensable.

At the first liaison meeting of top administrative officials of government ministries, Abe stressed, "We need to pursue real politician-led politics based on mutual trust between politicians and bureaucrats."

This meeting, attended by officials at the vice minister level, is scheduled to be held every Friday after Cabinet meetings. It is aimed to work as a place where the ministries and the Cabinet Office share information and consider specific measures in line with Cabinet decisions.

The DPJ-led government scraped such a liaison meeting and excluded bureaucrats from policymaking. The rebuffed bureaucrats became less proactive and more apt to wait for instructions. This significantly deteriorated government functions.

Abe's move to facilitate cooperation within the government through such top bureaucrats is understandable. We regard it as reasonable that Abe aims to correct the inappropriate political leadership pursued by the DPJ, which acted like an opposition party and did not trust bureaucrats.


Division of roles

A document on the roles of politicians and bureaucrats, agreed on during an informal ministerial meeting, says bureaucrats are tasked with providing basic information and presenting policy choices, while politicians are responsible for making policy decisions.

Unless politicians and bureaucrats divide their responsibilities and cooperate with each other, the government cannot work effectively on risk management, disaster responses and other state affairs.

It is also rational for the Abe administration to resume regular press conferences by top administrative officials, another practice that was discontinued under the DPJ-led government. Previously, there had never appeared to be any problems with bureaucrats assisting ministers by holding press briefings to explain issues at the practical level.

Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will reinstate procedures for submitting government-sponsored bills, allowing its General Council and divisions concerned of its Policy Research Council to examine and approve the bills in advance. The LDP Research Commission on the Tax System also will take the initiative in formulating government tax policies.

Such a decision-making process led by a political party makes it easy for politicians to shape policies that reflect the opinions of their constituents and industries concerned, but the measures could be distorted by such opinions. Swift policy decisions are likely to be difficult if the Policy Research Council divisions have clashing interests.


LDP to be tested over TPP

One noted example of this is the LDP's stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives and other entities oppose the multinational free trade framework. Over the TPP issue, the Foreign Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry are also confronting the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. Unless consensus is reached among lawmakers with different interests, the government will be unable to decide on Japan's participation in TPP negotiations.

Key policies that would affect national interests should be discussed from a broader perspective such as by the government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, and then be decided at the initiative of Prime Minister's Office.

Meanwhile, the LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito will also launch a liaison council as a consultative body of the government and ruling parties. We hope they will closely communicate with each other.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2012)
(2012年12月29日01時21分  読売新聞)


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