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I
have two concerns about the Nov. 30 editorial “Shore up basic science“: First, it may be too harsh to say the decisions of the waste-cutting panel of the Government Revitalization Unit (GRU) are “shortsighted.” Despite many criticisms of their crude arguments, the GRU and its panel have the epoch-making role of changing the culture and procedures of Japanese politics.

In Japan, the Diet budget committees have not discussed details of budget proposals; they have dealt with general policies only. The panel’s activities expose the negligence of politicians and the Diet. Such a drastic restructuring is normal in private enterprise. Thus far the vested interests of individual industries and Diet members have been stiff obstacles to restructuring. An alternative policymaking system is not in sight partly because the Democratic Party of Japan lacks a strategic viewpoint.

Second, the budgets for science and technology should not be treated as sacrosanct. As mentioned in the editorial, although the advantages of this field are indispensable for Japan’s future, we should find broader “knowledge” more important. For instance, the plummeting budgets of public universities have weakened research foundations of the social sciences such as financial engineering. This is arguably related to the low productivity of Japan’s tertiary and service industries.

To strengthen Japan’s national influence, more investment in art and cultural fields will be fruitful. In this sense, again, a strategic viewpoint concerning where the government should invest for the sake of our future is urgently required.

kosuke suzuki

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