Japanese Governance: Beyond Japan Inc.

By Jennifer Amyx; Peter Drysdale | Go to book overview

6

A changing Ministry of International Trade and Industry

Kohno Masaru

The 1990s will be remembered by future generations of Japanese people as the decade during which the institutional foundations that sustained the growth and development of Japan's post-World War II political economy underwent significant transformation. The dragging economic recession following the collapse of the bubble and incessant waves of globalisation brought about structural changes in the so-called convoy system, keiretsu groupings and life-time employment practices, which had long been the distinctive characteristics of Japan's financial system, industrial organisation and labour relations. It is also noteworthy that, by coincidence (or perhaps luck), a series of scandals involving élite bureaucrats surfaced and the scope of reforms reached the core of Japan's administrative structure. Even the most stubborn sceptics would have difficulty denying the effect of sweeping reforms which include the revision of the Bank of Japan Law, the breakup of the Ministry of Finance, and the strengthening of the functions of Cabinet. Important change also took place in the political arena when the introduction of a new electoral system triggered significant partisan realignment and new patterns of government formation. The previous political landscape, with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) confronting dogmatic Socialists and other minor parties, disappeared, and the LDP-though maintaining its legislative plurality-was forced to form a coalition to establish a majority government. Finally, yet no less significantly, the 1990s witnessed growth and maturing of various civic activities at the regional and grass-roots levels, as represented by ombudsmen and other non-profit organisations (NPOs). Their demands for decentralisation, administrative transparency and participatory democracy were clearly heard, affecting the results of some gubernatorial and local elections, as well as influencing the course of important legislative deliberations on regional autonomy, NPO activities, the environment and public health in the national Diet.

While other chapters of the volume address various aspects of the changes listed above, I focus in this chapter on the recent transformation of one particular government agency, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). I argue that, during the past decade or so, there have been notable

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