January 5(Wednesday)

No. 10 [Budget] The Government's Draft Plan is Decided - The Prime Minister Reveals Three Struggles


The Prime Minister answers the question "Isn't there anything in the budget plan drawn up last month that reflects Kan's color?" He reveals the struggles he underwent behind the scenes in realizing regional sovereignty, encouraging science and technology, and promoting task forces.



Prime Minister: On December 24, the Government's draft budget for the next fiscal year was decided. This was my first budget since taking over as Prime Minister, and there were various scenes.


Narration: Behind the scenes of budget formulation, there were
several instances in which the Prime Minister exercised leadership
to fix the course of events by giving strong instructions. The
Prime Minister himself revealed three scenes out of these.


Narration: At first, the science and technology-related budget was
moving in a negative direction from the previous year since it had
already been increased in the current fiscal year's supplementary
budget. Subsequently, however, it underwent an about-turn to emerge
as a modest 0.1% increase in the original plan. Where did this
change occur?


Prime Minister: I've kept saying that science and technology are important, so I decided to insist on my own views during the budget drafting. Although I encountered resistance, I stated my desire that the science and technology budget should not be decreased.


Narration: After a heated debate, a 30% increase in scientific
research grants was included in next year's budget, and the total
amount budgeted for science and technology exceeds the total for
the current fiscal year.


Prime Minister: I wish the entire nation to share in this dream. In particular, I would like young people and young researchers to have dreams and to nurture them. Based on these wishes, I have given instructions on my own initiative to expand the science and technology budget.


Narration: Block grant subsidies are an important means of
realizing regional sovereignty. This is an epoch-making scheme in
which the national government provides grants to local governments
without specifying their purpose in detail, allowing these funds to
be used freely according to the needs of each region. This, too,
came up against a big wall while they were drawing up the budget.


Prime Minister: The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had previously decided this as a major column of its policy. So I instructed each ministry and agency to find out how much of the subsidies they were responsible for which could be apportioned as block grant subsidies. The amount they initially presented was only 2.8 billion yen out of total subsidies of approximately 3 trillion yen.


Narration: Ministries and agencies are slow to switch from
so-called "subsidies with strings attached," for which the purpose
of use is designated, to the more liberalized block grants style.
Each ministry and agency has its own view point, but if the policy
gets bogged down in details, the overall goal will not be achieved.


Prime Minister: I thought that the amount was way too small. So at Cabinet meetings and elsewhere, I made a rather harsh demand that I want to know the names of the officials who said they couldn't comply. Because when we try to do things as Cabinet policy, if there are officials who can't cooperate, as a matter of course we must take this into account when considering future personnel arrangements. Somehow, these words were conveyed to Kasumigaseki. The officials there thought I must be serious. Since then, the officials have gradually become more positive and are now offering over 500 billion yen in block grants, up from the initial 2.8 billion yen. I have the final figure here, which is 512 billion yen. Here, I inserted the kanji for "angry shout (ikkatsu)" in place of "package (also ikkatsu)," because some say these financial resources became subsidies thanks to my angry reaction. I believe this is a big step forward.


Narration: Another example concerns cases in which, although the
individual amounts are small, an effective budget has been obtained
to implement measures that have not progressed much up to now due
to the walls of sectionalism among ministries and agencies. Common
methods are used in each case.


Prime Minister: While there is plenty of absurdity in this world, I have decided to form special task force teams to tackle at least these deep-seated problems that I focus on resolving. When different ministries or agencies handle these issues separately, progress tends to be minimal. One advantage of the special task force teams is that they go beyond the bureaucracy and another is that they can proceed speedily. Funding for these teams is also included in the budget.


Narration: At present there are four task force teams. The people
involved with them have been amazed at their effectiveness. For
example, Ms. Atsuko Muraki serves as Director General of the Office
of the Task Force Team for Eliminating Childcare Waiting Lists.


Ms. Muraki: We thought over the issue again and again, and gradually the solution took shape. That was an interesting experience.


Narration: Mr. Shiro Asano, a former official of the Ministry of
Health, Labour and Welfare, is involved with the Task Force Team
for HTLV-1, a virus whose carriers are estimated to be more than
one million in Japan.


Mr. Asano: What I felt strongly this time was the sheer power of politics. This has really impressed me.


Narration: Mr. Yukihiko Akutsu is the leader of the Task Force Team
for the Recovery of the Remains of the War Dead in Ioto.


Mr. Akutsu, Team Leader: Certainly, if Prime Minister Kan had not made suggestions stemming from his own beliefs, we would never have been able to find these remains.


Prime Minister: Coming from a citizens' movement background, my motivation for engaging in politics was composed of several distinct themes. Among them, my starting point was to tackle individual issues that I thought were irrational. Another starting point was to consider how the future of Japan should be by developing a comprehensive vision of the entire nation. I would like to steer the Cabinet forward using these two vehicles.


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