Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Wish List, Opened

How?

That is the inescapable question.

After the hoopla and security overkill of the Toyako Summit dies down, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will be left with seven weeks of housekeeping duties and summer reading time before the start of the extraordinary session. The political classes will disperse to their home districts for seven weeks of vital constituent hand-holding and, when appropriate, backslapping—-an ominously long time for politicians to be immersed in a bath of personal and local complaints. In the absence of an election, the nation will largely put politics aside, focusing its attention on what is truly important: the Koshien high school baseball tournament--which probably will not, for demographic and wealth reasons, be won by a team from the Hokuriku, Chugoku, Shikoku or Tohoku regions.

But once this idyllic summer—possibly the last summer of the LDP's era of dominance—comes to an end, the Prime Minister, his Cabinet, his party and the ruling coalition will find themselves facing a daunting question.

How?

How will it be possible, in just a few months before the New Year, to draft and pass legislation

- reforming the payment system of the wildly unpopular eldercare system
- fulfilling the first phase of decentralization
- laying the groundwork for a fundamental rebalancing of the tax system
- renewing the Indian Ocean Maritime Self Defense Forces dispatch
- shifting the gasoline tax revenues from road construction to the general fund

over the determined opposition and delaying tactics of large segments of the Liberal Democratic Party, not to mention the knee-jerk opposition and delaying tactics of the majority in the House of Councillors?

And what about the big items on the agenda, the looming multifaceted issues requiring a flurry of action after years of benign neglect, such as:

- providing for the physical and financial needs of burgeoning population of the very old, at a reasonable cost
- righting the crippled, parasitic economies of the rural areas
- providing the legal and ideological framework for an influx of immigrant labor, both skilled and unskilled, temporary and permanent
-reversing the growing number of suicides
- fulfilling promises made at international events like TICAD and Toyako
- increasing the birth rate
- reversing the runaway destruction of the environment, both global and local
- preparing for a post-hydrocarbon-burning world
- providing for Japan's security as the world's power relationships undergo a phase of rapid realignment (and keeping the Americans happy with the Japan-U.S. security alliance through a more gradual and less episodic evolution)

all while the two largest parties in the Diet do not speak to each other...the bureaucracy is demoralized and despised...and the press and intellectuals are perceived to be shabby, corruptible and narcissistic?

How is it possible to change everything that must be changed--when everything that must be changed is .....everything?

3 comments:

Focus said...

The need is not to reform the payment system for the wildly unpopular over-the-age-limit health insurance system but is rather to abolish that system and to put everyone in a single system that will treat individuals as individuals and not as age groups, disability groups, or whatever.

MTC said...

focus -

Thank you for the comment.

As you are no doubt aware, I am a strong supporter of the new system.

http://shisaku.blogspot.com/2008/05/new-elder-system-dying-at-home.html

A one-size-fits-all system requires the imposition of an ideal upon reality.

JAM said...

Excellent questions but at least three of your points:

- righting the crippled, parasitic economies of the rural areas
- providing the legal and ideological framework for an influx of immigrant labor, both skilled and unskilled, temporary and permanent
- reversing the runaway destruction of the environment, both global and local

Are not, I think, even on the agenda. The LDP, in particular, is living off of the warped economies (note the plural) of rural areas. "Righting" these would deal a permanent death blow to the LDP. However, it is not only the LDP, none of the political parties show any indication of even a minimally competent perception of rural Japan...much less show any interest in serious improvements.
Almost exactly the same thing can be said for the whole idea of immigration. Again, there is very little idea that is might be useful to even think seriously about it.
Finally, even the courts are trying to get the ministries to pay attention to the environment with, thus far, minimal success. Serious environmental action is not even on the horizon.
Note that this is not just the LDP, it includes virtually the entire political spectrum and the national/prefectural bureaucracies. This leaves only the "chattering classes" who may be narcissistic and corruptbut at least there seems to be some vague awareness that these "how" questions, and all the others you note, might be good things to think about and maybe, just maybe, act on.