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Japan’s Cabinet changes do little for disaster recovery

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has finally clarified his hitherto vague “conditions” for resigning his post.

At a press conference on Monday, he said he is ready to step down after securing Diet passage of the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, as well as passage of two bills. One bill concerns special measures to promote renewable energy ― by obliging utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable means ― and the other bill would enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds.

But it is questionable that Kan will be able to get these bills passed without a hitch. He would have to unite the government and the ruling parties under the new Cabinet lineup he has just decided on, while also winning the cooperation of opposition parties.

Kan must not let the political vacuum or policy paralysis drag on any longer. We once again call for Kan to quit soon.

In the process of making the slight change to his Cabinet lineup, Kan made a tentative overture to Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People’s New Party, a junior partner to the DPJ in the ruling camp, to become deputy prime minister. By bringing Kamei, who had opposed the idea of Kan’s resigning, into the Cabinet, Kan probably hoped to reinforce the foundation of his administration.

But Kamei has been at odds with the leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan, which Kan heads, over key policies, as he opposes a hike in the consumption tax rate. It is hardly likely that a united front of the government and the ruling parties will be built.

In the end, Kamei declined the offer but instead agreed to become a special adviser to Kan. It can be said, however, that the latest appointment only ended up exposing the decline in Kan’s leadership and the political confusion in the last days of his administration.

Meanwhile, Kan appointed Kazuyuki Hamada, a Liberal Democratic Party member in the House of Councillors, as parliamentary secretary for internal affairs and communications. As it looked as if he were trying to win over members of the main opposition party one at time, this also created a stir.

The LDP has been much offended, with some members calling Kan’s appointment of Hamada a direct challenge to the efforts to form a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties.

Such a move would only bring about a contrary effect at a time when the ruling camp badly needs to cooperate with the opposition parties.

As part of a new system to tackle post-disaster reconstruction, Kan also named Ryu Matsumoto to the new post of minister in charge of reconstruction, the linchpin of the reconstruction implementation headquarters. Matsumoto is to serve concurrently as state minister for disaster management.

Meanwhile, Kan also appointed Goshi Hosono, his special adviser, as state minister in charge of dealing with the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It is undeniable that the appointment came too late, as 3-1/2 months have already passed since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The reconstruction implementation headquarters must make up for the delays in reconstruction efforts as soon as possible, in what little time is left before Kan steps down.

One of the important tasks Matsumoto faces is to improve communications between the central government and disaster-affected local governments, which have had a strained relationship recently, to come up with effective reconstruction measures.

It is also necessary for the central government to present a road map for reconstruction soon, to help local governments determine what should be done first.

Hosono has to bring the nuclear crisis under control as soon as possible by cooperating closely with Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the troubled plant.

We hope Hosono will soon compile what Kan calls an outline for preventing a nuclear accident from recurring.

(Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun)

(Asia News Network)
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