Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Political Mystery

Only a few lines today due to an illness.

The other day I noted the Democratic Party of Japan boycotted a sudden emergency meeting of the Administrative Oversight Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Administrative Oversight. (Link)

The excuse the DPJ gave for boycotting this unusual out-of-Diet Session subcommittee meeting -- and for ordering ministry bureaucrats summoned to stay at their posts -- was that the party secretariat had not yet selected a Ranking Member for the subcommittee, which is chaired by a Liberal Democratic Party member.

However, the story behind the sudden call for a subcommittee hearing is not frivolous. It turns out that the supplementary budget drawn up to fund the recovery of the Tohoku region and Fukushima was crammed with pork, projects that could not be justified in the regular budget but suddenly became vital parts of the recovery effort.

The rightist press outlets have been all over this story, as can be expected. However, they have been taking their cues from the leftist and progressive press. The Tokyo Shimbun, a left-leaning paper and an avowed enemy of the Prime Minister for his having championed a rise in the consumption tax, has been plastering its front pages with nearly daily exposés of questionable items in the recovery budget, including:

- 7.2 billion, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support its Japan-East Asia/North America Network of Exchange for Students and Youths

- 2.3 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to support pelagic research whaling overseen by the Institute of Cetacean Research

- 40 billion, to the Defense Ministry, for the acquisition of fixed wing transport and cargo aircraft

- 1.2 billion to the National Tax Agency, for maintenance on 12 of their dormitories

- 330 million, to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, for earthquake retrofitting of the National Stadium in Shinjuku

- 47.7 billion to the Ministry of Infrastructure, Land, Transport and Tourism for water control projects, only 30% of which are in the disaster zone

- 3.4 billion, to MLIT, for construction of national highways in Okinawa

and in what can only be the greatest of ironies,

- 10.7 billion to MEXT for the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, an agency promoting the use of nuclear energy. The budget outlay includes 4.2 billion for Japan's continued participation in International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

Now just why all these questionable items are becoming political hot potatoes now, as opposed to several months ago, is a mystery. Of course, the compilation of a new budget and a new recovery budget, with the ministries putting forth their requests for the next fiscal year, may have stimulated the news media to ask, "And what exactly has happened to the money you already received?"

However, how was it possible that the uncovering of all these funny budget items seems to have been left to the national broadcaster NHK (Link), the mildest-mannered of the news networks? Why was the no stink made when the recovery budget was initially compiled?


1) So the new media outlets could put on their best Captain Renault act (Link), shocked at what was promoted as a budget to help the Tohoku being instead a minor festival of pork barrel projects? What country do they think they are operating in?

2) The LDP, in order to force the resignation of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, called up their contacts in the news media with juicy bits from the recovery budget's internal working documents just when the government was about to enter into delicate negotiations with the major opposition parties about the extraordinary Diet Session?

3) Prime Minister Noda and the Cabinet, after ostensibly allowing the bureaucracy to run rampant in a bid to win its loyalty, instead gave the bureaucrats enough rope to hang themselves?

I have no clue.

No comments: