Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's the Point of this Failed Premier's String of Meetings?

The only reason for the revival conferences run by the rudderless, irresponsible Kan is to prolong his system of government. The biggest obstacle to rebuilding from the great quake is Kan himself. Getting together a bunch of academics who don't understand this point is not going to produce creative results. Real creativity requires a serious approach. This conference ought to be scrapped.

"The Congress dances, but it does not advance." — Archduke Rainer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has a thing about making meetings. The latest conference to revive the nation, announced with much fanfare, is his 19th such meeting. There is even talk that he's planning to create a rebuilding headquarters. That would result in his 20th meeting. It is becoming increasingly clear that the objective of these meetings is to preserve Kan's government. There are no bureaucrats or people in positions of responsibility in these meetings. The biggest problem facing the government right now is that the administration doesn't work. Kan doesn't have the intention to get the bureaucrats moving; he just keeps shouting at them. Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan seem to have forgotten that the bureaucrats are people of pride.

The people are waking up to the fact that the biggest problem with the rebuilding effort after the quake is the irresponsible me-first philosophy of Prime Minister Kan. He doesn't have the vision, ideas or sense of responsibility that a political leader should have. Instead, every day he yells at the bureaucrats. Then he forms discussion groups filled with sycophantic academics who tell him what he wants to hear. When information from these discussions gets leaked to the press, he panics and denies that he said anything. And then he repeats the process. Most of the populace has the feeling that he's lying.

The revival conference is nothing more than a study group out to make Prime Minister Kan more popular. Academics of integrity must not join this group.

This is not the time for the premier to get lost in a fog of meeting-making. He needs to be brave enough to stop these useless meetings. The most effective move Kan can make to begin rebuilding from the disaster is to retire.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Excessive Self-Restraint Will Lead to Shrinkages, Dispiritedness

If the whole country contracts, Japan will be ruined. While it is natural to want to put all our efforts into the revival of the quake- and tsunami-damaged areas, for a more long-term revival, we need to improve all of Japan. We need to energize the overall economy.

"Too much of a good thing is good for nothing."
— Ieyasu Tokugawa

Too much of this self-imposed control sweeping the country is dangerous. Overdo it, and Japan will shrink. Tokyo is already on the verge of overdoing it. If all of Japan overdoes it, Japan will be led down the road to ruin.

The government needs an aggressive economic policy. But then comes the Pavlovian response: An aggressive economic policy will lead directly to a financial collapse. If the nation's debt rises, so will interest rates. If that happens, there will be a steady procession of small and midsize companies heading for bankruptcy protection. Japan's economy will falter.

They want to push for a tax hike. And it's not just the Finance Ministry and its scholars saying this. The majority of the politicians in the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party as well as government officials are in agreement with the Finance Ministry. And the mass media provides the echo chamber. In fact, the media is more than an echo chamber; it's leading the charge.

But the Finance Ministry's austerity measures, fixation on debt repayment and push to hike taxes will shrink Japan's economy in the long run, increasing financial debt. In other words, if we follow the austere policies of the Finance Ministry, Japan will fall apart.

The abnormal level of self-imposed control and shrinkage after the great earthquake presents a new danger. Too much of this control could send Japan to the brink. We need to change policy right away.

I think that without a policy that plays on Japan's strengths, there will be no revival. The government needs to change course to aggressive policies. On March 11, 2011, everything about Japan — its politics, economy, society, international position — changed. We need to acknowledge this and change direction too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Bad Prime Minister in a Bad Situation is a Formula for Disaster

We need a political leader who can harness the ability of the country's civil servants to help us overcome this crisis. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is not that man. We should form a new cabinet with People's New Party leader Shizuka Kamei as the premier.

We need the focus and ability of our country's civil servants more than ever.

Japan is facing a national crisis. Political power without crisis-management know-how is worthless. A politician like Kan, who can't motivate the bureaucrats, leaves one hundred problems and no solution.

To overcome the lack of energy caused by the nuclear incident and the East Japan Earthquake, politicians need to do more than pledge unity. We need political leaders who can mobilize the national and local government employees and guide them to make the most of their abilities. Prime Minister Kan isn't up to the task.

No system will get the bureaucrats motivated and moving. We need the leadership of people. If we don't have people in positions of power who are capable of rallying the bureaucrats, we're in trouble. '

But the sad truth is there are very few politicians around these days who are up to the task. Kan has already failed. The only two in the political world who can get the government employees motivated are Shizuka Kamei and Ichiro Ozawa. Both of these men need to have a central role, but Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, is most suited for the top position.

I have a request to make of Prime Minister Kan: quietly bow out of the government and recommend Kamei as your replacement. If you do this, we'll finally have a government that can handle crisis management. A prime minister who can't rally the bureaucracy is worthless right now. I think the Democratic Party of Japan should get behind the idea that Kamei should be entrusted with the leadership role.