May 2, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's May 2 issue.
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Of the past prime ministers he has met since entering politics, Prime Minister Naoto Kan especially models himself on former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, according to a book by Kan's wife, Nobuko.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, Kan appointed one scholar after another as special advisers to the Cabinet. He may have done so to imitate Nakasone's "brain trust-oriented politics."
The Ad-Hoc Commission on Administrative Reform, which realized such achievements as the privatization of the Japanese National Railways and its separation into several regional railway companies, was led by businesspeople and scholars close to Nakasone.
The commission functioned effectively because its members worked hand in hand with bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki in making their proposals.
The late Ryuzo Sejima, former chairman of Itochu Corp., played an important role in managing the ad-hoc panel. He repeatedly held preliminary negotiations with officials of ministries and agencies and sought practical proposals, he later wrote in his memoirs.
"The most brilliant proposal or theory is merely an opinion if it exceeds the government's capacity," Sejima wrote.
Kan's attitude is that he has many advisers he can turn to for "second opinions" without trusting bureaucrats. This is more different from Nakasone's brain trust-oriented politics than might first be surmised.
A nation's viability depends on the existence of stalwart and capable bureaucrats, according to Sejima. He also called for boosting their vitality through politics. These are words Kan should listen to.
(May. 5, 2011)