Aso partially bans ‘watari’ perk for ex-bureaucrats


Under pressure from the opposition camp, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that he will immediately ban the little-known custom of “watari,” in which ministries can arrange new jobs multiple times at related corporations for retiring bureaucrats.

The government has set up a public-private personnel exchange promotion center intended to unify all the ministries’ outplacement efforts within three years and limit postretirement job placements to once per each retired public servant.

Retired officials who hop from place to place reaping lucrative jobs and benefits at government-linked companies are coming under fire from the public, which has dubbed them as “watari” (migrators).

The monitoring committee for the three-year transition period has not been by anyone other than Aso yet, and the ministries can still theoretically arrange new jobs for any former official multiple times.

“Arranged migrations will be basically abolished,” even during the transition period, Aso told the Lower House Budget Committee Thursday.

But opposition lawmakers still say Aso’s stance isn’t strict enough because a major loophole has not yet been closed in a related government ordinance.

The ordinance in question has a clause that states a ministry can introduce a job multiple times to a former government official if the person is “irreplaceable” from the company’s point of view.

“Unless you decide to delete this clause, the bureaucrats will find ways to use it,” Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yoshito Sengoku told the committee during Thursday’s meeting.

Aso admitted there will be some rare exceptions for “arranged migration” based on that clause, but refused to delete it.

“At this point, I don’t intend to delete it, but I understand your point well. . . . I will be sure to deal with this properly,” Aso said without elaborating.

In December, Aso agreed to substitute himself for the monitoring committee. The members of the panel must be approved by the Diet but had been left empty because the opposition parties would not cooperate.

Payouts attacked

Staff writer

Deliberations on the second extra budget began Thursday in the Lower House, with the opposition attacking the huge cash handout program being championed by Prime Minister Taro Aso.