A discussion group to push for administrative reform was set up under Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, whose jurisdiction includes administrative reform along with policies to cope with the nation’s low birthrate, promotion of equal social participation by men and women and creation of “new public commons,” under which the government and citizens and private entities such as nongovernmental organizations cooperate to provide services in such fields as education, child care, community development, nursing care and welfare services.

One wonders whether this group will play an effective role. There is already an advisory body on administrative reform that is supposed to advise Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and play a leading role in administrative reform. The new group under Mr. Okada was set up at a time when there is little prospect that administrative reform-related bills would be enacted. Devoid of legal backing, it is a private advisory body for Mr. Okada. Careful preparations and strong determination are needed to carry out administrative reform. But it appears that both factors were lacking in establishing the group, which was created on the initiative of Mr. Okada. It is also difficult to sense any strong zeal in the group.

The group consists of 10 members, including Mr. Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera Corp. and KDDI Corp. and currently CEO of Japan Airlines. The nine others are also members of the advisory body for Mr. Noda. The new group is like the fifth wheel of a coach.

The group, whose establishment was announced May 1, will meet twice a month and is scheduled to make public basic ideas concerning such matters as sale of national assets and reduction of the total personnel cost for national public servants. It will report its ideas to the advisory body for Mr. Noda and the government’s headquarters for administrative reform, which consists of all the Cabinet ministers, by around July.

Mr. Okada should learn a lesson from the experience after the 3/11 disasters. The government created many ad-hoc bodies but it is not clear whether they really contributed to improving its ability to cope with the disasters. Also, administrative reform should not be carried out mechanically, such as simply slashing the number of civil servants. Administrative services and the state’s power to deal with an emergency should not be sacrificed. One wonders whether the Democratic Party of Japan government, which decided to cut the number of new recruits of national public servants in fiscal 2013 by 56 percent from the level of fiscal 2009, understands this point.

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