The government’s plan will centralize offices for consumer complaints that are currently housed in the ministries of health and welfare, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, and economy, trade, and industry. Superficially, this proposal preempts the DPJ, with the difference that unlike the DPJ, the government’s plan, well, keeps responsibility for consumer affairs within the government.
Nevertheless, it’s better that the parties are competing over plans for improving the government’s receptivity to consumer complaints than over plans to fling money at farmers and other interest groups.
Meanwhile, the government’s expert advisory group on civil service reform, first convened under Prime Minister Abe, will by the end of the month issue recommendations for restrictions on contacts between politicians and bureaucrats. This is one area where ambitious and rigorous restrictions could have far-reaching effects on Japanese governance. These restrictions would strengthen the cabinet at the expense of the LDP rank-and-file and make it more difficult for LDP backbenchers to pervert policy to their own ends.
It’s no wonder that the backbenchers are outraged over the proposal, prompting Mr. Fukuda to tread gingerly on this issue. While Mr. Fukuda can ill afford a rebellion, forcing the LDP to accept new rules on politician-bureaucrat relations would allow him to begin recasting the party as an urban, reform party in advance of an election (a difficult, if not impossible task).