Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Policy-Go-Round

Though it is a bit dated, I felt I should share this Reuters news flash which, because it was redistributed by The New York Times, will remain online for the foreseeable future -- unlike most Japan-related news, which falls off the screen after two weeks due to link rot.
Japan: Former Cabinet Spokesman Will Now Oversee Energy Policy

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday named a former cabinet spokesman, who became the government’s public face during the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the spring, to the cabinet post responsible for overseeing the response to the nuclear disaster. The former spokesman, Yukio Edano, was named trade minister, who is in charge of energy policy, among other things...(
The statements made in the title and in the body of the text regarding who is in charge of energy policy would come as something of a surprise to State Minister for National Strategy Furukawa Motohisa. "Implementation of energy policy" would certainly be in the bailiwick of Mr. Edano. "Crafting national energy policy" would, however, be logically done with the confines of the National Strategy Office, or by the Energy and Environment Commission, both which Mr. Furukawa leads (jp).

However, as we know, the Cabinet will no longer be the locus of policy making, at least according to draft flow diagrams of the new policy making structure under the Noda Administration. The Policy Research Council of the Democratic Party of Japan will craft legislation pre-approved for the Cabinet to rubber stamp. According to a cursory analysis, this would mean that the reins of energy policy would be largely in the hands of the Chairman of the Policy Research Council Maehara Seiji.

That, however, was sooooo two weeks ago, an eternity under Noda, who presides over an administration that spurts out radical shifts like a geyser. In a move that dilutes the power of the Chairman of the Policy Research Council, decisions of the PRC will first make a stop at the Government and DPJ Executive Leadership Commission (Seifu - Minshuto sanryaku kaigi).

The Commission will be composed of six members, two from the government and four from the party. Representing the government will be the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary. Representing the party will be the party secretary general, the deputy secretary general, the PRC chairman and the Diet Affairs chairman of the House of Representatives. This smaller group will make a final decision on the legislative or policy decision items before they are sent to the Cabinet for rubber stamping (ja).

For those of you keeping score at home, this new commission puts Maehara, a vocal and bitter critic of Ozawa Ichiro and his politics, at a level with two Ozawa allies – Secretary-General Koshiishi Azuma and Diet Policy Affairs Chairman Hirano Hirofumi, with Prime Minister Noda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu and Deputy Secretary-General Tarutoko Shinji, a former recipient of Ozawa support, as the swing votes.

Would it surprise the reader that this new commission was created at the insistence of Koshiishi? I thought not.

So who is "in charge" of the nation's energy policy? A commission of six men, one of whom is a stakeholder in the program and two of whom are his natural rivals.

Is it me, or is this new structure way too close to a Politburo Central Standing Committee for Japan?

Later - Come to think of it, the assertion in Reuters article that Edano will be in charge of overseeing the Cabinet's response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster would come as a surprise to State Minister for Nuclear Accident Settlement and Prevention (and Environment Minister) Hosono Goshi, too.

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