Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Kamei Clock Starts Ticking

Having completed the most important task for which he was appointed -- the forcing of the resignation of Nishikawa Yoshifumi, the president of the Japan Post Holdings Co. and as a bonus anointing former Ministry of Finance Vice Minister Saitō Jirō as Nishikawa's replacement, Minister of Financial Services and Postal Reform Kamei Shizuka can now kick back and wait for the call from the prime minister asking for his, that is to say Kamei's, resignation.

Kamei has done the government's dirty work in getting rid of Nishikawa. It was not a terribly difficult task: Nishikawa was already one of the walking dead after the details of the botched privatizations of the chain of Kampō no Yado inns came to light. When the Democratic Party of Japan prevailed in the August 30 elections, the promise to the coalition partner People's National Party to end postal privatization came due. Kamei, the sworn foe of postal privatization, was made minister in charge of postal reform -- a fine Orwellian title meaning of course the minister in charge of halting postal reform.

Since the election and the appointment of the new Cabinet, Nishikawa has been reduced to waiting for the chop. Actually getting rid of Nishikawa, however, carried political risks. He was an appointee of former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichirō, who had thrown the political world into turmoil over the issue of privatization of the post office. After expelling Kamei and his allies from the Liberal Democratic Party for their opposition to privatization, Koizumi led the LDP to a stunning victory in the 2005 House of Representatives election. The public, which was lukewarm to privatization initially, came to strongly support it.

Sacking Nishikawa, wounded as he was by the Kampō no Yado affair, carried the risk of being perceived as a repudiation of the judgment of the voters in 2005. Drafting Kamei into service as Nishikawa's executioner offered an opportunity of containing potential blowback. Blame for backtracking on reform could be assigned to Kamei's own private animus toward postal privatization.

Only a sense of his own indispensability or an overwhelming nihilism, however, can explain Kamei's decision to name Saitō as Nishikawa's replacement. Saitō was the top bureaucrat in Japan's least loved and most feared ministry, and was forced into early retirement by reports of his subordinates being wined and dined by real estate speculators.

A poster boy, in other words, for everything the DPJ is supposedly against.

Even the usually less-than-astute LDP president Tanigaki Sadakazu could not help but find a glaring contradiction:

"How does this (appointment) square with opposition to the appointment of a former old boy of the Finance Ministry to be the head of the Bank of Japan?"
From very first days of Kamei's tenure in his appointed posts it has been clear that he does not care a fig about the country's fiscal and financial health. Nor does he seem to care about injuring the reputation of the coalition. Rather than respect the fundamental economic truth that every decision implies tradeoffs, he has gone for the irresponsible, easy score every time, shrugging off every opposing voice as "ignorant."

In nominating Saitō, however, he has walked out to the edge of the plank. Prime Minister Hatoyama probably still hates to think that his first big decision will be to undo the coalition government that he inaugurated to much fanfare only a month ago. However, he scarcely needs the PNP's votes anymore and Kamei has made himself not just a distraction but a weeping sore in the side of the goverment from day one.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.


PaxAmericana said...

Who says the piratization was botched? Wasn't that the goal?

Anonymous said...

Only a sense of his own indispensability or an overwhelming nihilism, however, can explain Kamei's decision to name Saitō as Nishikawa's replacement.
OK. So we have two sides:
a sense of his own indispensability


overwhelming nihilism

Let us consult with the wisdom of the mob and vote on this!!!

I vote for nihilism!

My name is Tarnesth