消費者庁 できるか縦割り行政の打破

2009-04-20 08:30:47 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 20, 2009)
Consumer agency must avoid turf wars
消費者庁 できるか縦割り行政の打破(4月20日付・読売社説)

Will a new agency be able to function as a sort of new control tower for administration of consumer affairs?

A new government organization will be inaugurated by the end of this year to replace the current system of consumer affairs management that has too often shown the negatives of sectionalism among ministries and agencies such as the failure to detect a spate of food mislabeling cases and to prevent accidents caused by defective products.

A bill to form a consumer affairs agency is highly likely to become law at the current Diet session as the House of Representatives approved it Friday.

The government and the ruling coalition parties initially submitted a bill to establish the envisaged agency as an external organ of the Cabinet Office, but the Democratic Party of Japan opposed it, making a counterproposal to set up a "board of consumers rights" as an organ independent from all the other government bodies.

However, the DPJ has come to a compromise and agreed to revision of a bill sponsored by the government and the ruling coalition parties.

The start of Diet deliberations on the bill has been delayed to a large extent, but it was significant that the ruling and opposition parties were finally able to reach political agreement.


Watchdog panel

A main point of their agreement was the position of a supervisory panel of experts, which was placed under the consumer affairs agency in the bill sponsored by the government and the ruling coalition parties.

In the revised bill, however, the panel was upgraded to a consumer committee ranking alongside the consumer affairs agency as a government watchdog.

The revised bill, which has incorporated some of the ideas presented by the DPJ, has granted the envisaged committee strong authority not only to keep an eye on the consumer affairs agency and demand reports from the other government organizations but also to advise the prime minister and other Cabinet members to address problems.

However, the ruling and opposition parties postponed dealing with many problems as they raced to a compromise.

First, the bill does not clearly show how the consumer committee and the consumer affairs agency should coordinate their actions and request the other government organizations to respond quickly when a consumer problem arises.


Danger of duplication

Meanwhile, if its secretariat is overexpanded, the consumer committee will be superfluous, becoming an entity similar to the consumer affairs agency.

It is also difficult to select members of the committee, who must come from the private sector.

The consumer affairs agency, and the other concerned ministries and agencies will jointly administer many laws related to consumer affairs. However, demarcation of jurisdictions of each ministry and agency remains unclear.

There is an urgent need to build a system within the consumer affairs agency, able to quickly collect information on risks to consumers' safety and prevent or minimize damage.

Such problems should be studied more closely to prevent confusion after the launch of the consumer affairs agency.

It is also very important that the ruling and opposition parties agreed to enhance central government support for expanding local consumer centers through an increase in the number of consumer counselors and other measures.

The number of such offices that are closer to consumers, where they can seek advice in a friendly atmosphere, should be increased.

Reorganization of the consumer administration does not immediately guarantee its smooth operation.

It is a fact that central government bureaucrats have so far given priority to manufacturing and industrial sectors. They must change their mentality drastically to focus truly on the people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2009)
(2009年4月20日01時27分 読売新聞)

海賊対処法案 安易な修正は避けるべきだ

2009-04-19 07:56:18 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 19, 2009)
If the antipiracy bill ain't broke, don't fix it
海賊対処法案 安易な修正は避けるべきだ(4月19日付・読売社説)

Cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties is desirable to ensure the early enactment of the antipiracy bill. But such cooperation should not result in the bill being amended without due consideration, as changes could compromise the effectiveness of antipiracy measures.

Deliberations on the antipiracy bill started at the House of Representatives last week. The bill is aimed at enabling Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to escort not only Japan-related, but also foreign ships. Also, MSDF vessels would be able to fire at pirate ships that approach and pursue commercial ships with the aim of disabling them. These are the pillars of the government-sponsored bill.

MSDF vessels are now engaged in missions to escort Japan-related ships off Somalia based on the maritime policing provision of the Self-Defense Forces Law. But these activities are stopgap measures until the new law is enacted.

The MSDF vessels have already received rescue requests from foreign vessels on two occasions and repelled the pirates with long-range acoustic devices. Their use of weapons is largely limited as it is restricted by the Mariners Law.

An early enactment of the legislation is desirable if Japan wants to ensure the effectiveness of MSDF missions.


DPJ demands impractical

Of great interest will be how negotiations on amendments to the bill between the ruling and opposition parties turn out.

The Democratic Party of Japan has asserted that an antipiracy headquarters should be established in the government, and that MSDF personnel on the mission should have dual status as members of the headquarters. The party also calls for revising the bill to require Diet approval for antipiracy operations. The current bill only requires the government to report such operations to the Diet.

But we have doubts about the DPJ's demands.

The proposed antipiracy headquarters is modeled after the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters overseeing Japan's contribution to U.N. peacekeeping activities. Such a body, however, could well be superfluous as such a task can be assumed by the Defense Ministry.

It would be most effective to place MSDF vessels on antipiracy missions under the control of the Joint Staff of the Defense Ministry. A new body could cause confusion in the chain of command.

Some DPJ members even go as far as saying that the Japan Coast Guard should play a leading role in antipiracy missions, and that MSDF members should be transferred to the JCG when taking on such missions. Their assertion stickles over the form in which the mission is conducted and is utterly nonsensical.

Behind their assertion is a notion associated with the former Japan Socialist Party that holds that "the Self-Defense Forces are bad and should not be used unless this cannot be avoided," a line of thinking that emerged in the early 1990s, underpinning calls for establishing a separate body assigned to carry out peacekeeping operations.

It is only natural to utilize the organization that is most fit for a given mission. This is why the MSDF vessels were dispatched, not JCG ships.


Diet approval problematic

The DPJ's insistence that antipiracy operations must get Diet approval is not consistent with legal provisions governing SDF mobilization.

Maritime policing activities taken when foreign ships intrude into Japan's territorial waters do not even have to be reported to the Diet. Diet approval must be sought for exceptional activities, such as the mobilization of SDF troops when Japan is attacked or under the clear threat of armed attack, and when it is deemed that Japan's public order cannot be maintained by police.

If Diet approval was required and the DPJ supported Diet approval for the current antipiracy mission, there would be no immediate problem. But such a provision could hamper Japan's efforts to deal with piracy in the future if it became rampant in a different sea zone.

The ruling parties should be aware of these problems and deal carefully with amendment negotiations with opposition parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2009)
(2009年4月19日01時28分 読売新聞)

パキスタン支援 アフガンとともに安定を図れ

2009-04-18 10:12:34 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 18, 2009)
Stabilize Pakistan, Afghanistan together
パキスタン支援 アフガンとともに安定を図れ(4月18日付・読売社説)

To stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, which is struggling at the front line of the war on terrorism, support for its neighbor Pakistan must be expanded in a coordinated international action to bolster the security situation in both countries at the same time.

Thirty-one countries, including Britain, China and the United States, and 18 international organizations participated in a donors conference in Tokyo on Friday and decided to extend more than 5 billion dollars to Pakistan over the next two years. Japan and the United States each pledged 1 billion dollars.

Pakistan nearly defaulted on its debt last autumn, mainly because of the global financial crisis. Although the International Monetary Fund has decided to step in with an emergency loan program, the country was obliged to take steps to cut its fiscal deficit and adopt an austere monetary policy.


Militants hide out in Pakistan

Two militant groups--the Taliban, which opposes the Afghan government, and members of the international terrorism organization Al-Qaida--are holed up along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They have been attacking U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces deployed in Afghanistan from Pakistan. When they are repulsed by U.S. and NATO forces, they flee into Pakistan, complicating mop-up operations by the U.S. and European forces.

Development of the region around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has lagged behind, and the majority of the population there is poor. Cuts in development project budgets and the tight monetary policy may worsen poverty there and heighten the risk that the area, already a hotbed for terrorism, will breed even greater numbers of militants.

A destabilized Pakistan would be a nightmare for the international community because the country possesses nuclear weapons.

The participating nations at the donors conference decided to extend huge financial support to Pakistan because they decided that the vicious circle between poverty and terrorism must be ended.

However, there is little ground for optimism about the situation in Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari, who took office last year, is in confrontation with the opposition leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and lacks charisma.

Another problem is the presence in the military and other sectors of the Pakistani government of elements sympathetic toward Islamic militants. Coupled with anti-U.S. sentiment due to across-the-border attacks by U.S. drones, the Taliban have expanded its sphere of influence.

Zardari told the Tokyo conference that he intended to maintain his country's antiterrorist policy and called for the cooperation of the international community in that endeavor. Japan, which hosted the conference, must support Pakistan through official development assistance and other programs.

Also, international support for Afghanistan should be reinforced.


Bigger role possible for Japan

The United States plans to send more troops to Afghanistan and expand its support for the livelihood of the Afghan people. The latter is a field in which Japan has long played a leading role, such as by constructing schools and clinics. Therefore, the scope for active involvement by Japan in the reconstruction of Afghanistan will expand, we believe.

But in reality, support programs in the field have been mainly limited to those conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and nongovernmental organizations. It has been pointed out that there is work in which the Self-Defense Forces can actively be involved, for instance, in participation in provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) and dispatch of transport helicopters.

Although SDF dispatches to Afghanistan may be difficult under the current Diet situation, the government should keep studying the possibility of sending the SDF to the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2009)
(2009年4月18日01時28分 読売新聞)


2009-04-17 13:00:26 | アドセンス




週刊新潮「誤報」 第三者調査で徹底検証せよ

2009-04-17 09:28:47 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 17, 2009)
Weekly magazine needs better standards
週刊新潮「誤報」 第三者調査で徹底検証せよ(4月17日付・読売社説)

Shukan Shincho, the weekly magazine that carried a series of articles in the form of first-person accounts from a man who claimed to have attacked reporters at The Asahi Shimbun's Hanshin Bureau in 1987, has published an article explaining how the magazine gathered materials for the articles, which have been found to be false.
In an article in the latest issue, which came out Thursday, the magazine appeared to be playing the victim, implying it was duped by the man. An explanation such as this is a far cry from being a thorough investigation of the matter.

After the series of articles was published, the man denied he was responsible for the fatal shooting when he was interviewed by another weekly magazine.

As a matter of course, Shukan Shincho then had to admit the man's account was false and apologize for the articles. But Shinchosha Publishing Co., which puts out the weekly magazine, should not leave the matter solely with the editorial staff of the magazine. The publisher should thoroughly examine the cause and background of the misreporting through an investigative panel that includes third-party members and find exactly where responsibility lies.


Confirmation lax

In the apology, the weekly magazine cited the failure to gather sufficient evidence to support the man's account as the reason why it ended up running false reports. This certainly seems to be the case. It also appears that much could have been verified with just a little bit of time and effort on such matters as where and how the man lived at the time of the incident.

Particular caution is needed when someone approaches a media organization in an attempt to sell information. It is likely that the weekly's slackness in its principal task of confirming information resulted in its swallowing of the man's false story.

The treatment given by the weekly to the man, which can be described as excessive, also should not be overlooked.

The man was given 900,000 yen in "manuscript expenses" as well as accommodation fees for three months. The weekly also shouldered a one-month advance payment for staying at an Internet cafe, which was necessary for the man to get a resident's registration, and helped the man find an apartment and obtain a passport.

Such cushy treatment could cause informants to tailor their stories for reporters by misrepresenting facts. This point should be investigated as well.


Explanation came too late

Also, the weekly has been too slow in providing a full account of the series of articles.

The articles were carried over four consecutive weeks beginning from late January.

Soon after the final installment was published, the Asahi carried a story on factual errors in the Shukan Shincho articles following a complaint by a former employee at the U.S. Embassy in Japan that the man had falsely said the employee asked him to attack the newspaper bureau.

The National Police Agency chief also in effect denied the credibility of the man's account.

Despite these developments, why did the weekly take so long to explain itself?

While the weekly is known for having exposed scandals involving politicians, it also has been accused in a number of cases of infringing on people's rights or of defamation.

In the latest article, the weekly argues that "weekly magazines have a mission to report in depth even 'events' and 'allegations' that have yet to be proved as truth." This kind of perception most likely caused the misreporting.

Recently, a series of court rulings have been made regarding slack reporting for articles in weekly magazines and have ordered publishers to pay huge amounts in compensation.

Shukan Shincho has lost several such court cases. In one of the cases, a district court ordered the president of the publisher to pay compensation, saying the president failed to effectively provide training for editors and establish systems to check articles before publication. The publisher must address these structural problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17, 2009)
(2009年4月17日01時51分 読売新聞)