AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

No cigar

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 1, 2012

TAKENAKA Heizo, the man responsible for cleaning up the post-bubble banking problem and launching the privatization of Japan Post, and Nakada Hiroshi, former Diet member and Yokohama mayor, serve as advisors to the most important politician in Japan today: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru.

The two men published a collection of dialogues last fall called Nippon on Daimondai 30 (The 30 Major Issues Facing Japan). Here’s Mr. Nakada speaking about one aspect of the post-earthquake/tsunami Tohoku restoration:

The land that was covered in water and thoroughly ruined as a result of the earthquake and tsunami will require an enormous amount of money to be restored for agricultural use. I helped clean up the land at Rikuzentakata (Iwate) recently. At a glance, it looks like all the rubble has been cleared away, but that’s because all the large debris, such as collapsed houses, cars, and logs, have been removed. But up to 20-30 centimeters below the surface of the farmland, there’s an enormous amount of glass and plastic shards and other material buried there. It was also covered in salt (from the seawater), so the soil needs to be improved. The radioactivity has to be removed in some places too. The state of the land means that it isn’t possible for individual farmers to clean up their fields, even if they spent the rest of their lives doing it. It would be the height of stupidity to tell the small farmers, who are aging, to stick with agriculture.

At any rate, it would take an immense amount of money to provide assistance to the individual farmers, so the state should look after their interests, sovereignty should be restricted, and the land should be nationalized. Then, large agribusiness companies should be created to conduct agriculture on a large scale. They could employ the older farmers, who would earn more money than they do now. They also wouldn’t have to worry about who would take over the family farm. This is a major opportunity.

He’s right. It is a major opportunity, and all of his observations and ideas are excellent, with one exception: the first sentence of the second paragraph. Everything he thinks should be done can be done and done better without nationalizing the land and the government getting in the way.

The time for the conversion to large agribusinesses is long overdue, and some large companies are starting to get involved in the sector already. (The railroad company JR Kyushu grows six different crops on leased land.)

The same objectives could be accomplished by facilitating the formation of agribusinesses and letting them purchase the land.

It’s curious that Mr. Nakada would suggest this, because he is seen as an advocate of small government (as is Mr. Takenaka). He also understands the critical importance of limiting the power of the national bureaucracy at Kasumigaseki. Nationalizing the farmland would increase that power rather than reduce it.

Very close, but no cigar.

Afterwords:

* Rumor has it that both of these men will join the new political party that Mr. Hashimoto and One Osaka are about to create. There are also rumors that Mr. Nakada will run for a Diet seat in the election expected by the end of the year, but he denied it on Twitter yesterday.

*One plank in the One Osaka platform is to make the appointment of deputy ministers (usually bureaucrats) and ministry bureau heads the responsibility of politicians. That might sound geeky to people unfamiliar with the issues, but it is an essential first step in resolving all 30 of the major problems.

* The government of Abe Shinzo backed measures to promote agribusiness, but Ozawa Ichiro saw that as a major opportunity too — to promise the farmers individual government subsidies, roll back the Abe measures, and thereby contribute to a DPJ election victory. Such a farsighted statesman he was.

*****
It’s the weekend, and that means it’s time for some fun. Offbeat Thai rapper Joey Boy knows all about fun. Well, that and how to put pretty girls into his videos. This one is triple fun.

One Response to “No cigar”

  1. Marellus said

    … which country truly has the ability to solve its problems : Japan or the USA ?

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