Japan from the inside out

Ichigen koji 9

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, May 29, 2011

– A person who has something to say about everything

“On 14 March, (Tokyo Metro) Gov. Ishihara Shintaro met with Ren Ho, the Minister in Charge of Energy Conservation Awareness, and gave her this advice: ‘If you’re going to ask the people to conserve energy, you should do so based on a Cabinet Order.’ In fact, during the oil shortage (of the 70s), the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (today’s METI) announced planned usage restrictions for large facilities, as well as restrictions on neon signs, through a notification based on a Cabinet Order citing the Electricity Enterprises Law. He told her the same thing should be done now.

“Planned electricity stoppages (rolling blackouts) are a measure based on the contracts between Tokyo Electric and their users. The utility will shut down power in different areas to avoid a major blackout. But whether the power will be cut off won’t be known until that day. This is going to cause difficulties for shops, eating and drinking places, and factories. They run the risk of closing their shop in anticipation of a stoppage, but sometimes one does not occur. To avoid confusion, the shops have to close.

“Further, factories must bear the cost of restarting machinery once the power source has been cut. They also have the problem of what to do with their employees. It’s not possible to operate a business when the decision for a blackout won’t be made until the day it’s carried out. But comprehensive restrictions and restrictions on short-term large power consumption based on a Cabinet Order are planned restrictions on use, so factories and business managers can draw up schedules in advance.

“When she heard this advice, however, Ren Ho just stared blankly. ‘There’ll be a time lag until the Cabinet Order is issued,’ she answered. She probably didn’t know these Cabinet Orders existed.”

– Inose Naoki, Vice-Governor of the Tokyo Metro District and a non-fiction writer, on the government’s policy of rolling blackouts in Tokyo

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One Response to “Ichigen koji 9”

  1. σ1 said

    If true, it just shows how intransigent the Japanese bureaucracy really is. It is not unusual for new ministers to not understand the full range of discretionary powers that they hold – I have written plenty of briefings articulating exactly what ministers can and should do in regards to things like ministerial notices and ToRs, rights and obligations vis-a-vis non-core government ministries and institutions that do not fit into a neat “public” or “private” designation, etc etc. This includes experienced ministers. To be sure she should know what a Cabinet Order is, although not necessarily the optimal way to use one. I think it is clear (and of no surprise) that the DPJ was not ready to govern, but what gets me is that ultimately that shouldn’t matter – any bureaucracy worth its salt should be able to prepare an inexperienced government which is sufficiently cautious to take on those responsibilities. The difference between an experienced minister and an inexperienced one is significant – but the key point here is that that should only be an issue for the bureaucracy, not for the public. The fact that it is an issue for the public suggests it is not only the DPJ that is not doing its job well, and/or that the bureaucracy is outright acting in an irresponsible and anti-democratic way. Given what we know about the Japanese bureaucracy, I know where my money is. My main concern is that the DPJ’s unbelievably poor internal party management/unity is going to somehow let the rest of entrenched elite off with only an electoral “warning” (bureaucracy AND the old guard in the LDP). This would be a far more damaging legacy than anything they have done in office. So far I have to say I am impressed that the public (based on opinion polls) has held their nerve in not “rewarding” the LDP for their own bad behaviour along with the DPJ, but recent ones suggest that the worm might be turning the other way, especially since YP etc have done almost nothing to distinguish themselves in opposition from the LDP (criticism, no matter how witty or sharp, is not substitute for doing something).
    Sig: Thanks for this informative note. Here’s what I wonder about: As well as the bureaucracy, there are some people in the DPJ who were around when Ishihara was around and are old enough to remember. Off the top of my head — Ozawa, Watanabe, and probably Hata. All were in the LDP at the time, too. They don’t ask Ozawa for advice any more, but what about the other ones? Though that was a bit before Sengoku’s time, accounts have him on very good terms with most of the bureaucracy. (They like him for his intelligence.) There were stories that when he was Chief Cabinet Secretary, he had more access to their information than did Kan. It’s odd that someone wouldn’t have told him.

    – A.

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