Nuclear crisis in Japan is a legacy of political meddling because of the Amakudari system
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
In Japan the current crisis within the nuclear sector and other areas of the economy can squarely be pinned on the relationship between the political bureaucracy and its love-in relationship with electricity suppliers.
The Amakudari system enables senior bureaucrats to find important executive posts after leaving the government and it is reported that 68 high ranking bureaucrats went on and resumed senior positions with the energy sector.
Therefore, given the relationship between government and electricity suppliers it appears that this all inclusive policy means that when serious issues arise, then it may be pushed under the carpet?
It is important to state that not all “amakudari” bureaucrats will be inefficient and each former high ranking bureaucrat will respond differently. Also, many will be highly skilled and it is over simplistic to believe that all will either have ulterior motives or seek to cover up major problems.
However, it is also clear that the relationship between the political bureaucracy and electricity suppliers; could lead to complacency and for the general public it may appear to be both inefficient, corrupt, and about preserving a comfortable relationship.
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is new to the power process of the amakudari system but former high ranking political leaders in the DPJ who were former LDP politicians, will know all too well about this system.
Obviously the DPJ knows about this system because for 50 years and more, the LDP have followed the same procedure in various sectors of the economy. Democracy and “open business” is rather flawed because you have so much inter linkages and not all the blame can be pinned on politicians because the keiretsu system is embedded within the business community.
Conformity and continuity alongside strong inter-relationships is all too powerful within the Japanese system and inter-linkages and connections is the bottom line for the business and political model in Japan. Of course, not all companies follow this system but in general it is part and parcel of the business environment in Japan and in South Korea they have a similar system called chaebol.
Turning back to the current crisis in Fukushima then the relationship between industry and government regulators would tend to point in the direction of complacency. This applies to data by TEPCO not being scrutinized to the full when questions were raised about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant being vulnerable to a possible tsunami.
Government hands run throughout the system and this applies to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. After all, this ministry is involved in expressing the importance of nuclear energy, helping Japanese companies to find major business contracts in the international arena, and regulating the safety of the nuclear sector in Japan.
The promoter and regulator conflict within the system was separated in France because of the fear of complacency several years ago. In America the government understood this weak point in the system; therefore, changes were made over 30 years ago in order to safeguard the nuclear sector from conflicting interests.
The government and TEPCO merry-go-round can be summed up by Tokio Kano. He joined TEPCO and became a leader within the nuclear unit in 1989 and in 1998 he entered parliament. Once he was elected to parliament then Tokio Kano helped to rewrite Japan’s national policy related to energy and not surprisingly the conclusion was that nuclear energy was the way forward.
After being involved within the political system for more than 10 years he then returned to TEPCO. Therefore, Tokio Kano is an extreme example of the system in Japan.
The amakudari system is defended by some because you will not have many high quality candidates who have powerful knowledge of this complex sector. Therefore, it is argued that it may appear to be inefficient and based on complacency; however, the system does enable utilities to get high quality candidates who not only bring their expertise but also their strong contacts within an important sector of the economy.