Japan’s Treacherous Bureaucrats

Prime minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party has fallen on hard times, owing to a wave of scandals. But a closer look at the government's problems reveals the role of Japan's entrenched bureaucrats, who have more or less allied with the opposition to subvert civil-service reforms.

Much has been made of the massive defeat Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party suffered in the recent election to Japan’s Upper House. But, as the smoke dissipates from that vote, it has become clear that the real victor is neither the leading opposition Democratic Party (DPJ) nor the electorate. Instead, it is Japan’s bureaucrats who are celebrating.

The aim of these entrenched mandarins is to block Abe’s plans for extensive civil-service reforms intended to inhibit them from parachuting into lucrative post-retirement jobs in the public corporations and private firms that they once regulated. They also want to stop Abe from dismantling and privatizing one of their central fiefdoms, the Social Security Agency. In this struggle, the mandarins are aligning themselves with the DPJ, at least to the general public’s eye, because it has proposed merging the Social Security Agency with the National Tax Agency, a move that would ensure government jobs for the former’s employees.

The LDP’s declining vote is attributable largely to Abe’s mishandling of pension fund issues, particularly his late admission of knowledge last December about 50 million “lost” pension files. This followed other minor scandals concerning the misuse of political funds, which had led to two resignations and the suicide of one of Abe’s cabinet ministers.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/88UBXNe;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.