August 25(Thursday)

Matters undertaken by the Kan administration:
A general report (1)
Reforms to the modalities of politics and government

 

Prime Minister Kan stated here in the "Prime Minister Kan's Blog" and elsewhere that he would "pass on the reins of government once the Bill on Special Provisions Concerning Issuance of Government Bonds and the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies are passed."  Accordingly, this "Topics from the Prime Minister's Office" corner will present through a series of articles a general overview of the matters in which the Kan administration has been engaged over the past year and three months since its inception, broken down by major topic headings.

 

The first topic in this series is "reforms to the modalities of politics and government."  Taking over the major reforms of politics and government originating with the historic change of government under the Hatoyama administration, the Kan administration has undertaken new measures in the areas of politicians taking the initiative on policymaking rather than the bureaucracy, reforms to increase local sovereignty, and reforms involving national civil servants.  Let us look back on the paths these have taken.

 

A new stage of politicians taking the initiative on policymaking

Establishing the practice of "politicians taking the initiative on policymaking rather than the bureaucracy" this was both a key phrase in the change of government and also an issue to which Prime Minister Kan has been devoting his energy since the DPJ was an opposition party.

 

It has been said over the years that compared to other countries, the number of staff reporting directly to the Prime Minister of Japan is in fact quite small.  Upon acceding to office, Prime Minister Kan, who had himself been deeply involved in establishing the National Policy Unit as the first-ever Minister for National Policy, [1] positioned some members of the National Policy Unit as 'staff reporting directly to the Prime Minister,' thereby explicitly giving them the function of assisting the Prime Minister.

 

Reforms to increase local sovereignty

The matter of what should be done regarding the relationship between the nation and the local regions is one of the most important issues when considering the future 'shape of the nation.'  The Kan administration [2] took a Cabinet Decision on "Local Sovereignty Strategy Guidelines" in June 2010, stipulating the policies and measures that will promote reforms to local sovereignty in an integrated and planned manner.

 

[3] The Kan administration also achieved progress in transitioning grants into block (lump sum) grants.  In fiscal 2011, grants related to investment into the prefectures and other monies were made into block grants totaling 512 billion yen.  The goal for fiscal 2012 is 1 trillion yen in scale, including grants for municipalities.

 

In December 2010, a Cabinet Decision was reached on the [4] "Action Plan to Abolish Regional Offices of the National Government in Principle."  Among other matters, it was decided that a bill would be submitted to the ordinary Diet session in fiscal 2012 to create a framework for region-wide implementation structures to enable the transfer of operations and authority from the regional offices of the national government in blocks, with the aim of this transfer taking place within fiscal 2014.

 

Moreover, in April this year, a law was enacted on the [5] "Forum for Consultations between the National and Regional Governments," by which a forum for the national and regional governments to consult directly was formally established into law.  The Forum has already convened twice since this became law.

 

Reforms to the system of national civil servants

Progress was also seen in reforms to the system of national civil servants, one of the most important topics within administrative reform.  The April 2011 meeting of the Headquarters to Promote Civil Service Reform decided on an "overall vision" of reforms, including [6] the establishment of a "System of Self-Governing Labor-Management Relations," which will enable a review of the personnel and salary systems between authorities and employees' organizations of civil servants, [7] the establishment of a system concerning the centralized management of personnel, and further improvements to management of retirement of civil servants, among other things, and a bill was submitted to the Diet in June.

 

The Kan administration has also stringently taken on [8] cutbacks in personnel expenditures for civil servants.  Against the backdrop of the Great East Japan Earthquake and other circumstances, a bill has been submitted to the Diet to reduce salaries of national civil servants dramatically until the end of fiscal 2013, including a 10% reduction in salaries for managerial-level civil servants.  The administration is also working tenaciously to reduce the total number of national civil servants.

 

The next installment will provide an overview of economic policies.



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