Hiring right bureaucrat for right job is no taboo
If somebody is deemed the right person to serve in a certain government post, it is the responsibility of politicians, including the prime minister and Cabinet members, to appoint that person, regardless of whether he or she has served as a former bureaucrat or is from the private sector.
This principle needs to be established.
Both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors have approved the government's appointment of Takeshi Erikawa, a former administrative vice health, labor and welfare minister, as one of the commissioners of the National Personnel Authority, an appointment that requires Diet approval.
One of the three commissioner posts at the authority has successively been held by former bureaucrats. It makes sense to have a person like Erikawa as a commissioner to handle the personnel affairs of national public servants, given that former bureaucrats are familiar with public services operations.
Referring to Erikawa's appointment, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said at the upper house Budget Committee: "We must carry out a reform of the civil servant system [that could be as drastic as] requiring discussions on whether the National Personnel Authority should continue to exist. A capable person should take up the post."
The government has effectively taken the stance that Erikawa's appointment does not constitute an instance of the so-called amakudari practice, in which retired bureaucrats take well-paid jobs at corporations in sectors they formerly oversaw. The government takes the view that appointing the right person for the right job, while considering such factors as the status of the post and the job's requirements--and as long as there is no mediation by government bodies in the appointment--does not constitute amakudari.
This could be interpreted to mean that appointments of former bureaucrats by politicians to posts the government considers important, such as to the personnel commissioner, do not constitute amakudari.
The appointment of Jiro Saito, former administrative vice finance minister, as president of Japan Post, also should be seen as an example of this stance.
It would be difficult to carry out appropriate personnel changes if, as a mere formality, former bureaucrats were automatically disqualified. We hope the government's personnel decisions are made based on the principle of choosing the right person for the right job.
Both parties risk dishonor
When the Democratic Party of Japan led the opposition, it repeatedly made a political issue of government appointments that required the approval of both chambers of the Diet.
Last year, the party opposed the government's appointment of Toshiro Muto, a former administrative vice finance minister, as president of the Bank of Japan. This shook the then administration of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in a divided Diet, in which the lower house was controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition and the upper house by the DPJ-led opposition.
The DPJ's Takeo Nishioka, who serves as the chairman of the upper house Rules and Administration Committee, has recently said, "The political situation took precedence over simply judging whether Mr. Muto was good or bad [for the job]."
"I still think it was nonsense that Mr. Muto was rejected," he added.
These remarks are truly unwise.
However, the LDP's rejection of Erikawa's appointment also is dishonorable.
Regarding the LDP's opposition, party President Sadakazu Tanigaki said: "[The DPJ] made an about-face by changing the interpretation of amakudari soon after it took power and urging support for [Erikawa's appointment.] There's no ground [for us] to approve it."
This apparently shows LDP defiance in the face of the DPJ's shifted stance. But if the LDP brushed off an appropriate examination of whether the person in question was the right person for the job, it goes against the claims made by the party while it was in power. It also indicates that the party might, in the end, be merely acting out of revenge.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 19, 2009)