Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Old Trickery Squashed: Five Years and Five Months of Koizumi Politicis
YAYAMA Taro / Political Commentator

September 26, 2006
This is an attempt to summarise the five years and five months of Koizumi politics as it comes to an end. The succeeding prime minister needs to take over the positives and make up or rectify the negatives. Those who are unaware of these points should be put on notice that they disqualify as a successor.

Prime Minister Koizumi never discussed his philosophy on international relations or foreign policy. He has, however, earned close to a full mark on Japan-US relations and diplomacy vis-a-vis China and South Korea. Between Japan and the United States there was a time of so-called Ron-Yasu relationship, but that was in the days of US-Soviet cold war when Japan had no other choice. Japan-US relations were built with extremely rational closeness in those days.

There was an outrageous prime minister in Japan some time ago who released terrorists claiming that "the human life was weightier than the Earth". Prime Minister Koizumi, in contrast, acted to the fullest extent possible in the fight against terrorism within the confines of domestic laws.

In the final days of his administration he put on the ultimate performance at Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion. There are people who criticise his theatrics but no Japanese prime minister before him has ever made the top headline in the three major TV networks and three major newspapers in the United States. The news report of that single scene must have made the American public understand why their president and the first lady welcome the Japanese prime minister and why a foreigner could fly in Air Force One. They must have felt the weightiness of the Japan-US alliance. What most gratified me was that he let the world know that Japan does have some pranksters.

For the Japan-US alliance one remaining issue that needs to be addressed is that of the right to collective self-defense or more specifically the question of the interpretation or amendment of the constitution in relation to that right. It is a shame that the bill on national referendum, which is a must if the constitution were to be revised, fell through as the Diet went into recess.

Quite a few people regard the Koizumi administration negatively because Japan’s diplomatic relations with China and South Korea soured. I, however, regard it positively because an "abnormal situation" is showing signs of returning to a "normal situation". What is most heartening is that the prime minister has resumed, be it as a private citizen or as a public official, the act to mourn and thank the war dead who dedicated their lives to the state. Such act should be taken for granted in a nation state. A nation that has lost that spirit is doomed to perish sooner or later.

The Japanese prime minister discontinued the practice in 1986 when China started to complain that Class-A war criminals were enshrined at Yasukuni shrine. Anti-Japan Japanese in this country and Japanese who curry favor with China took advantage of it. However, China actually began to complain about Japanese prime minister's visits to the shrine because it needed "Anti-Japan patriotism" as a new guiding principle in lieu of communism following the introduction of its open-door and reform policy which drove the country towards a market economy.

Class-A war criminals were enshrined at Yasukuni in 1978 whereas it was only seven or eight years later that China began to complain. Miyazawa and Hashimoto administrations were, if anything, underlings of China; every time China complains, they would apologize and even put up money. Koizumi squashed this absurd trickery. As China already has acceded to WTO the principle of "separation of politics from economics" is sufficient to run exchanges between Japan and China. Summit meetings are entirely unnecessary.

Symbolic of reform in domestic politicis was the privatisation of Japan Post. Approximately 350 trillion yen, i.e. one quarter of the 1,500 trillion yen personal financial assets in the country, is siphoned into Postal Savings and Postal Insurance and spent by the government in total disregard for market principles. A government with eight policy financial institutions affiliated with it is no different than Chinese state-owned banks that are trapped in the sea of non-performing loans. The Japanese bureaucracy created these unnecessary institutions so that they could land jobs there after retirement (a practice called "descent from heaven") and concoct work to spend money on.

The Postal Savings and Postal Insurance funds nurtured "pork-barrel politics" which, for years, resisted any change. In FY1998 public works-related spending amounted to a staggering 14.3 trillion yen. Japan's government spending as a percentage of GNP at its peak (FY1996) stood at 6.4% whereas the average for US, UK, Germany and France stays around 2% at all times. Koizumi administration managed to almost halve the public works spending to 7.2 trillion yen and bring down government spending as a percentage of GNP to 3.7%.

Globally there are two million construction companies. Six-hundred thousand of them are in Japan, twice the number of tobacconists in the country. You won't find a country this unusual anywhere else. Structural reform was carried out to rid the country of construction industry domination and nurture proper manufacturing industry. Since no country can be self-sufficient it has no choice but to adopt international rules for distribution and customs tariffs among others. Countries around the world submit requests to each other. So it is incorrect to claim that Japan capitulated to the United States by citing the "Annual Reform Recommendations" Japan receives from it. It is utterly specious to complain that Postal Savings and Postal Insurance institutions were sold off to vulture funds.

It is not deregulation and structural reform that produced Horiemon and the Murakami Fund. Rather, it is the absence of education that undermined the "Dignity of the State". It is regrettable that the prime minister did not pay even the slightest attention to the Basic Education Law. Decentralisation and reduction of civil servants did not produce results.

The original article was published in the 25 August 2006 issue of Sankei shimbun's "Seiron".
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小泉政治の5年5ヶ月を総括する 馬鹿げた絡繰りの数々ぶち壊す
屋山太郎 / 政治評論家

2006年 9月 26日









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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Old Trickery Squashed: Five Years and Five Months of Koizumi Politicis