Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.28 (April 24, 2008) ============================================================
"Acting in the best interests of the consumers. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
As Japan recovered from the ruins of World War II and launched itself into a period of high economic growth, such an approach focusing on the manufacturer may very well have been necessary. Be that as it may, now that we have the second most powerful economy in the world, we are witnessing great diversification in the needs of our society, such as the desire to attain high quality of life.
We are now in an age in which initiatives centered on the consumers give rise to new value and stimulate our economy. The time has come for corporations and government organizations to review their activities from the perspective of the consumers and the people.
Firmly believing this to be the case, I have decided that next fiscal year a new government agency will be established in order to advance government policies from the perspective of the consumers. This will be the Agency for Consumer Affairs.
In February of this year, we launched the Council for Promoting Consumer Policy: its learned members have engaged in extremely significant discussions on matters such as what is really going on in government agencies that are implementing consumer policy.
If you have an accident involving a gas appliance, you turn to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. If a food product is incorrectly labeled, then that is something that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is responsible for dealing with. If you experience food poisoning, you direct your inquiries to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. And if you have trouble with a consumer finance company, you take it up with the Financial Services Agency. Seen from the perspective of the consumers, the government ministries and agencies concentrated in the Kasumigaseki district, the center of national administration, seem like a labyrinth -- sometimes it is very difficult to find the ministry or agency to which the inquiry should be addressed.
It is often the case that if one contacts an administrative office to ask for help, staff merely redirect the inquiry. In some cases, no government offices are willing to take on responsibility for problems pointed out, leaving them unaddressed. The members of the Council for Promoting Consumer Policy have put forward the view that the over-compartmentalized administration of the central government is actually undermining the interest of the consumers, whose anxieties need to be addressed.
Once established, the Agency for Consumer Affairs will be a place where each of the concerns of the consumers will be given individual attention. The Agency will also develop proposals and implement laws related to consumer policy. It will, when necessary, issue recommendations to other government ministries and agencies. Thus, the new Agency will act as a command center to comprehensively oversee consumer policy.
Last week, I visited the Chiba Prefecture Consumer Center, where I had a chance to see how the advisors working there listened attentively to the concerns of Chiba residents and tried to help them with their problems. It was clear to me that we must enhance the consumer administration capabilities of local government organizations that are actually working directly with the consumers who reside in their districts.
I have instructed the Council for Promoting Consumer Policy to deepen their discussions on this and other relevant matters and I expect them to produce, during the month of May, a concrete proposal for the composition of the Agency for Consumer Affairs. This proposal will begin the shift to an administration that acts in the best interests of the consumers.
In last week's e-mail magazine, I wrote about the current state of obstetrics and pediatrics services. My focus is to thoroughly improve the services of those administrative sectors that are truly needed by the people, including consumer policy.
Still, we must do so in a way that does not lead to bloated government administration. Parallel with the launching of the Agency for Consumer Affairs, we will transfer to the new organization positions in divisions in other ministries and agencies that will come to be duplicated, and streamline the government structure.
Moreover, as I stated earlier, it is self-evident that we must not allow even one single yen of the taxes entrusted by the people to be wasted. Efforts are now underway to ensure that we achieve zero waste in all government outlays.
Last week, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced a reform policy to root out wasteful uses of revenue sources for roads. A first step forward has been taken with decisions to dissolve public interest corporations, cut off certain expenses, and curb the practice of civil servants obtaining posts in related organizations after retirement from public office. Still, there remains plenty of room for more reforms aimed at zero waste.
In particular, we must thoroughly eliminate the non-transparent practice of retired civil servants landing positions in the private sector. I will make tireless efforts to bring about reform in a way that will satisfy the expectations of the taxpayers.
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