Although decentralization reforms from 1993 to 2000 have brought great changes in the system of local government, they have perceived not to have dramatic, visible effects. But in several aspects, the impact of decentralization reform can be seen, and the policy process in local governments is changing gradually. This article focuses on the interaction among policy actors in local government policy processes, and demonstrates how crises have been used as tools to change local government policy processes. In this way, this article provides evidence that decentralization reform is becoming real.
The Japanese economy has been deteriorating for more than ten years. Real GDP growth through the 1990’s was nearly 1%, much lower than the 5% growth during the late 1980’s. The major reason why weak economic conditions continued for such a long time was the particular macroeconomic policy taken by the Japanese government.
During this period, the Japanese government pursued a “stop-and-go” expansionary economic policy four times. Many people were under the mistaken impression that fiscal stimulation could not substitute for building an economic recovery. They interpreted macroeconomic policy as resulting only in rapid expansion of government debt and vast amounts of meaningless public works.
If we trace the course of the Japanese economy during this period more precisely, however, we can easily find that this argument is completely mistaken. In all cases, when the government introduced a fiscal stimulus policy, we can see clear effects on economic activities. Stock prices rose sharply in every case. And real economic activities showed a clear upswing reacting to each expansionary economic policy.
The true reason for deterioration of the economy in each case was that the government switched too quickly to tight fiscal and monetary policy.
In 1994, the Bank of Japan tried to raise short-term interest rates too early. In 1996, the Hashimoto administration decided to raise taxes sharply, derailing economic recovery. In 2000, the Mori administration shifted to tight fiscal policy, and the Bank of Japan raised the short-term interest rate. Stock prices fell dramatically and the Japanese economy moved into recession again from the autumn of 2000.
The real reason for long-term deterioration of Japan’s economy is this “stop and go” economic policy. Moreover, the debate about this failure among academic economists is underdeveloped, and the mass media has lost much of its spirit as an independent critic. In order to rebuild the Japanese economy, it is also necessary to improve the quality and scope of discussion in Japan
In the current serious economic malaise, Japan’s political leaders, parties and political system as a whole are being accused of irresponsiveness to the hardship of the nation. Because of this, a new wave of political reform is emerging early in the twenty-first century.
However, it is paradoxical that, notwithstanding one of the largest-scale reforms of political institutions among developed countries, Japan’s political reforms in the past decade were extremely unfruitful. Presumably, it is because the relations between political institutions and civil society were not well accounted for in institutional design. In other words, political reform in Japan was overly dependent on institutional reforms, without careful consideration of the historical conditions of civil society.
Political reform discussions in the twenty-first century are also focusing on institutions, and constitutional reform, including changes to the parliamentary cabinet system. Parties, influential politicians, and civic groups endorse changes towards a system of plebiscite system.
The outcome of such reforms is both highly uncertain and risky. It would be better for Japan to conduct more bottom-up reforms.
In the 1990’s several industrialized countries conducted fundamental reforms of their social security systems, marking a new era in the history of social security. These changes came after strong pressure to reform social security programs to become more sustainable in an era of rapid demographic changes and low economic growth. In this paper, we focus on pension reform of 1999 in Sweden, health insurance reform of 1993 in Germany and the Care Standard Act of 2000 to secure quality of social services in United Kingdom.
In January 1999, a new pension system started in Sweden. Major characteristics of the reforms are separation of the principles of insurance and income redistribution, the introduction of quasi-defrned contribution pension on a pay-as-you-go system, a vital stable rate of premium and automatic balancing system of long-term financing. Accordingly, benefits for old-age pension depends on contributions, and lower-income pensioners can get an additional minimum pension financed by general taxation, from the age 61 and older.
With introduction of the Medical Reform of 1993 and the third Medical Insurance Reform of 1997 in Germany, the funds of public medical insurance are required to improve their self-regulation and self-responsibility on a stronger financial basis. The insured are allowed to choose any public medical insurance funds, many funds are encouraged to merge, and a risk-adjustment structure was introduced. The introduction of competition between public medical funds is the first such experience in a any health insurance system.
In the United Kingdom, with the introduction of NHS and Community Care Act 1990, the social services departments of local councils were required to set up registration and inspection unit and a transparent system of complaint resolution. The Care Standard Act of 2000 reforms the regulatory system for care services in England and Wales. The National Care Standard Commission was established as an independent body to regulate social and health care services previously administered by local councils and regulated by health authorities. The Care Standard Act applies to home care and residential care agencies, foster care agencies and residential family centers. In addition, the Best Values of the Local Government Act of 1999 based on the “new public management” principle for consumer satisfaction applies to all local government services, including social services.
Public policy for energy problems in the twenty-first century will develop around two themes: global warming by CO2 emissions and the exhaustion of fossil fuels. As the pace of technology development will accelerate faster and faster, the relationship of human beings to this change must be examined on a basic level. New energy policy should be based on a thorough examination of energy use from the birth of humanity.
500,000 years ago, in the First Energy Revolution, our ancestors used wood as fuel, and with the advantages of fire, rose to the top of the food chain, and branched off from all other animals. In the late 18th century, the Second Energy Revolution linked coal energy to steam energy, eliminating the need for large-scale deforestation that had been previously required for steel production. Rural society shifted into factory-based manufacturing using the new steam energy, rather than the muscle power that had been used since the beginning of agriculture. This revolution thus transformed an agricultural society into today’s enterprise-oriented society. The Third Energy Revolution occurred in the 1880s with the use of electrical energy with light and power to transportation vehicles such as automobiles and airplanes. In addition, the multiplication of both electricity and petroleum has produced many inventions, including medical appliances, personal computers, game consoles, and other electrical appliances.
The Third Revolution in particular has greatly expanded the amount of energy available, reduced the ability of humans (natural man) to perceive their environment through hearing, sight, smell, and touch. New generations (artificial man) have changed their behavior into a “throw-away” style. To deal with the two problems mentioned as issues for the twenty-first century, it is necessary to sound a warning about the current pattern of over-consumption of energy, and plan energy policy to take into account the coming energy shortage.
The decision-making approach is one of the dominant approaches in the current international politics literature. At the same time, there are many competing decision-making models, and as a result researchers of international affairs give a rather chaotic impression. In order to reduce the chaos, this article proposes to clarify the linkage between foreign policy decision-making models and reality, by two processes.
The first process clarifies the characteristics of existing foreign policy decision-making models around two features of models: their scope based on the functionality of the model, and their explanatory power. As a result, five models (actually eight models) are found in the literature. These models are: intergovernmental politics, interorganizational politics, intragovernmental politics, domestic politics, and transnational politics.
The second process analyzes issues in Japanese diplomatic relations based on three characteristics: the environment of policy actors who decide the policy, the goals and methods for problem solving, and the results of problem solving. It then explores the extent to which the above five models can be applied to diplomatic issues with these three characteristics.
The results of this research may be used as a reference for applying models to the study of Japanese foreign policy.
The development of information and telecommunications technologies has been striking in recent years and the need for personal data protection has been rapidly increasing in networked societies on a worldwide scale. The personal data protection act enacted in Japan in 1988 covered only data used by the public sector. Since the use of personal data has become widespread, the need for a personal data protection system in the private sector became apparent. The Bill of Protection of Personal Information, submitted to the Diet on March 27, 200I, is designed to cover both public and private sector data, and will serve as the core of personal data protection regulations in Japan.
The bill consists of two parts, covering basic principles and the duties of entities handling personal information. The former is applicable to each entity handling personal information. The latter is applicable to an entity (except the media) using a personal information database for its business.
The stated purpose of this law is to protect the rights and interests of individuals while taking into consideration the utility of personal information. The five basic principles also incorporate the eight guidelines set out by the OECD. The section covering duties of entities handling personal information applies these five principles to specific duties. Dispute resolution and other regulations, however, are left to voluntary industry controls. The bill also declares that the act of 1988 covering the public sector must also be amended.
On January 6, 2001, a new set of government ministries began operations. This drastic reorganization of the administrative machinery of the Japanese government, which halved the number of central government ministries and agencies, fulfilled a campaign pledge by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during the 1996 general election. Soon after the election, he created and chaired the Administrative Reform Council. In December 1997, the Council submitted its final report on the reorganization of the central ministries to the Prime Minister. A bill based on this report was approved by the Diet in 1998.
The Obuchi cabinet, which succeeded the Hashimoto Cabinet in July 1998, prepared all of the bills necessary to implement the reorganization. All of these bills became law and went into effect at the start of the twenty-first century.
This article locates the reorganization of the central ministries, referred to here as the Hashimoto/Obuchi Administrative Reform, in the context of the history of Japanese administrative reform over the last half of the twentieth century, then analyzes several new items on the reform agenda for the twenty-first century.
The targets, approaches, and achievements of various reform proposals are examined in the development of administrative reform over the second half of the twentieth century, comparing the Hashimoto/Obuchi Administrative Reform, with the Rincho Administrative Reform based on the recommendations of the Second Provisional Commission on Administrative Reform (Rincho), which began in 1981 under the Suzuki Cabinet, and succeeded in privatizing public corporations such as the National Railways and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT).
Finally, problems with the Hashimoto/Obuchi reform that have emerged in recent Diet discussions are analyzed, and new items on the reform agenda that will be required in the twenty-first century are evaluated.
This article shows how policy evaluation works differently in each policy area, using Paul E. Peterson’s three-policy-arena categorization. Policies are well-known to be produced through political processes, in the sense that politics are designed with political considerations rather than being based on clear, universal rationale. Accordingly, the characteristics of each particular political arena-rules, actors, and top-priority values are decisive when evaluating on-going programs.
Recent literature on this subject in Japan has largely focused on better policy combinations, more budget savings, and more sophisticated techniques to measure government performance. These are the keys to satisfy more customers, making the political system more reliable, and they are also worth pursuing. Political factors must also be taken into account, however, if we believe that policy evaluation plays an important role in the entire process to maintain fair school systems, effective sanitation programs, and good municipal hospitals.
To make this point, this article first examines debates over this issues, and argues that the debate undermines the thesis that, “politics does not matter.” It also shows that politics are expected to be rational but are not necessarily rational in reality. Next, it analyzes each policy arena in term so both the agenda-setting process and relations among actors, including the concept of, “policy community.”
Particularly in the redistributive policy structure, which has the toughest barriers to participation by outsiders of any policy arena, this articles demonstrates that the function of evaluation reflects who monopolizes relevant policy information, and that the different methods to evaluate programs in different policy arenas must be developed to ensure real political governance.
There are two major problems with health screening organizations which are quasi-public corporations financially supported by prefectural governments. Not only has the scope of their operation as public bodies not been adequately specified, but also their financial support may have caused inefficiencies in their management and dependency on public funds.
To solve the first problem, this paper establishes the scope of their operation from the public-choice economics point of view. It shows that the quasi-public organizations should play a leading role in promoting new health screening technologies, secure service for remote areas, and so forth. It also points out the existence of market failure in the price-driven health screening market, which makes health-screening organizations avoid the costs of quality control. It suggests also the possibility that quasi-public organizations that have achieved high accuracy can function through competition under a certain condition as the engine for general quality control.
As a solution to the second problem, it examines accounting systems of quasi-public organizations and methods of local government financial support, then proposes several policies for more efficient operation, including clarification of the purpose of these organizations, restructuring their operations, and setting an objective standard for financial support.
The revised aviation law that came into effect on February 1, 2000 almost completely liberalized the Japanese domestic airline market. This liberalization, however, has not been welcomed unreservedly by economists and policy makers. This is mainly because ministerial discretion remains substantially unchanged in allocating takeoff and landing slots at congested airports. Known as the “Scoring System,” this rule does not sufficiently assure objectivity and transparency in the slot allocation procedure, nor does it improve consumer convenience through competition.
In view of these limitations, some economists and policy makers have suggested competitive bidding as alternative method of airport slot allocation.
Competitive bidding for airport slot allocation, which can be broadly classified into (a) auctions and (b) efficiency bidding, is expected in general to overcome the limitations of the Scoring System. Most of the studies on competitive bidding for airport slots, however, confine themselves to demonstrating the advantages of competitive bidding over the present and/or other airport slot allocation rules. What seems to be lacking in these studies is an analysis of the inherent limitations and/or problems associated with the implementation of competitive bidding, and a consideration of the terms and conditions of selecting any particular bidding method. This article will attempt to provide this analysis and consideration, and argues that auctions are desirable if an expansion of runway capacity is possible, but if not, the potential costs and benefits of efficiency bidding should be compared with those of auctions complemented by negative bidding and/or other regulations under various existing conditions.
This article clarifies the legal definition of “Independent Administrative Institutions” (IAIs), their institutionalization in positive law, and evaluates the strategy of public sector reform. This evaluation includes discussions of implications for the civil service system and accounting principles, as well as the case of the National University System.
Traditionally, the term “Independent Administrative Institution” (IAI) is well established in the discipline of Japan’s administrative law. The concept in this particular reform strategy was originally modeled after the executive agency in the United Kingdom, but the institutional framework was given by this traditional legal concept. While it is designed to make government more efficient, the status of personnel in an IAI has become the biggest issue of contention, and ultimately the decision was made to allow IAI personnel to retain civil servant status. Curiously, however, IAis are also excluded from existing plans to reduce the size of Japan’s national civil service. Furthermore, accounting principles for IAis reveal the public nature of the organization, and its weak independence.
The National University System is also going to be subject to this process of “agencification.” The System will apparently establish a different pattern of IAI. Since the National University System will be the largest part of IAI, it is doubtful whether the original intentions of this reform will be achieved.
The concern of institutional design of IAI shifted from management reform to reorganization, and it may end up being used as a convenient tool for decreasing the number of national civil servants.
This article examines how innovative local governments influence other local governments that do not tackle innovative policies. If decentralization efforts make substantial progress, local governments will be able to make public policy freely without the guidance of the central government. Nevertheless, many local governments do not have the ability to initiate innovative public policy, and rather tend to imitate innovative public policies implemented by a few local governments.
This article conducts a case study of information policy implemented by the Okayama prefectural government. This policy area was selected because the central government has recently emphasized more flexibility in local government policies, and local government has responded by imitating information policies implemented by a handful of innovative local governments. Okayama is studied because it was the first local government involved in promoting the Japanese “ginformation superhighway.”
To substantiate this characterization of local government policy diffusion, this article first compares the plans to promote an “information society” at the regional level of forty-seven prefectures, and analyzes both common and different features of “information superhighway” policies in each prefecture. Second, this thesis analyzes whether other prefectural governments imitated the Okayama “information superhighway” policy in its entirety, by comparing them to the specific characteristics of the Okayama policy. These characteristics include: a high-speed, fiber-optic network, a communications network owned by the prefectural government rather than leased from private companies, a local IP exchange point in the prefecture, and information not only prefectural government, but also about hospitals, schools, and other institutions, including internet service providers or cable television.
The article concludes that the influence of innovative local governments on other local governments is not especially strong, but that other local governments try to learn from the main characteristics of innovative local governments and use them to their own advantage.
Concern for healthcare quality has been growing rapidly through Japan in recent years. The objective of this article is to explore the concept of health care quality and quality management and discuss methods of tracking and evaluating service provided by health care providers under pressure for cost containment.
This article focuses on the application of health care economics to health care quality, examines the health care quality management system in the United States, and evaluates the feasibility of introducing this new system into Japan.