Last week I was watching a TV program called Live Prime News on BS Fuji TV which focused theme was “The recovery from the great earthquake - Political task”.Two members of non-government party, Yoshimasa Hayashi of Liberal Democratic Party and Youichi Masuzoe of New Renaissance party was discussing their views on the post-earthquake political matters.
As it is widely known, there has been much criticism against the current government on the deficiency of the crisis management. The two politicians’ argument and criticisms were personally very clear, valid and constructive so I summarized some interesting issues they raised…
- The need of the opening of information and the clearer route towards the public.
The priority of the government in the state of crisis is the opening of information to all – the two politicians point out the fact that this has not been done in an adequate way. On top of it, there have been too much and diverse sources of information that caused some complexity: Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Industry, Chief Cabinet Secertary and Tepco (Tokyo Electricity). The source of information should have been unified so that the unnecessary confusion should have not happened.
- The support fund should be accessible to the victims ASAP?
The use of 120 million yen support fund gathered has not yet determined properly. This is because of the difficulty of over consideration about the “fairness” of the distribution. As it is hardly possible to make the “fair” decision, the government should possibly start to distribute at least half of it and to balance the sum out later on by the other 60 million. The faster they can provide the victims with the support, the better it is.
- The increase and decrease of support towards the current Government
The ratio of support towards the current government rose by more than 15% from 19.8% (March 10th) to 35.6 %( March 17th) and the number has been slowly decreasing since towards 27%. Masuzoe sees the raise of number not because of the popularity of the current government party, but as a natural counter action in the nationwide crisis of this scale. Citizens would rely on whatever power that might be able to improve the situation. The fact that it is decreasing again, according to Masuzoe, is slightly problematic as we are still in the middle of the crisis.
- Learning from The Great Hanshin Earthquake? – Crisis Management of the Government
In terms of crisis management, there was much to learn from The Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995). However, sadly, some decisions and actions the government took were worse than the previous catastrophe. For example in the case of Hanshin, the government and the major party were working much better together. They made a consensus and relied on each other. This time, few days after the earthquake, Prime Minister Kan suggested “grand coalition” meaning the political alliance of government party and non-government party in order to get over the crisis. The answer from the representative of non-government party, Tanigaki of Liberal Democrat was a “no”. Masuzoe and Hayashi pointed out the manner in which this was done were very rushed and thoughtless, as if the government party merely wanted some to share some responsibility rather than a true collaboration.
- Awareness towards what is said out in the International Media
Masuzoe brought out a major French paper, Le Monde, as he has been reading it since the 3.11. For example there have been caricatured pictures of Japan and the nuclear appearing regularly on the paper since the earthquake: An ill looking Japanese woman in a nuclear patterned kimono or a firefighter working to stop the plant withrejoicing his salary rise due to the crisis. Others included the fact that “Fukushima Daiichi” becoming a “proper noun”, political use of the imagery of Fukushima in German election etc etc. He alerted the viewers and the government of Japan to take this situation seriously as it will probably become worse resulting of a serious Fuhyouhigai (financial damage caused by harmful rumours or misinformation ).
The Key-Words for the Recovery
In the end of the program both Masuzoe and Hayashi were asked to come up with a key word towards the recovery of the situation. (Picture above)
Hayashi : 「現実的楽観」= Realistic Optimism
“We need Jishuku the Jishuku: to self-control the self-control”
The word “Jishuku”, meaning self-imposed control, has been prevalent since 3.11. People were asked to “Jishuku” their own personal desire in order to support the situation. For example, the Japanese tradition of “Hanami” = Cherry blossom appraisal party, were limited to smaller scale and the parties in the evening were told to “Jishuku” in order to
Hayashi asserts that now we are in the stage to stop the whole Jishuku business and to start being slightly more optimistic. Moreover, this attitude of Jishuku of Jishuku is crucial when considering the economic revival. (The restaurant business was severely hit by the whole Jishuku atmosphere as no one came out to eat and drink)
Masuzoe: 「司令の一元化」＝ Unification of Information and Orders
Referring to the confusion of information and governmental orders, Masuzoe draws emphasis on the necessity to create a single clear path.
What should have happened and what should improve is the format of governmental organization facing this particular crisis. For example there should have been a clear division of work between, say, minister of economics and industry, minister of earthquake issue, secretary of the chief cabinet secretary. The former two dealing with the nuclear and the earth quake issue the latter two supporting the whole organization and structure. What has been happening is that this sort of job and responsibility division weren’t successful. Masuzoe asserts that this is due to the lack of ability in communication. The reliance of the people on site was lacking, thus the governmental tops that were meant to be “defending the goals” were instead “out in the field” which caused further confusion in the communication and order. Masuzoe questions, why the governmental heads could not have said “I will trust the people appointed on site, ask me the decision making when there is a possibility of severe risk, in which case I will take the responsibility and make the decision.” Lack of communication resulted in the lack of a reliable relationship between the top of the government and the on-site people, analyses Masuzoe. There should be clearer structure on the routes of communication and order, which is still a crucial issue when thinking of the revival from the 3.11.
Excuses and the Updates on Earthquakes
The points above are only some of the few issues they were raising in the 2 hours program. I possibly need to clarify again that both Hayashi and Masuzoe are part of the non-governmental party and thus it could be that they might be over-critical towards the current government. I have to admit that I was not much aware of the political situation of Japan recently but still, even for me, it was one of the clearest and constructive discussions on the fundamental political issues that I saw on TV for the past few weeks.
In terms of earthquakes, there had been several earthquakes over the past two nights that I personally were aware of. (According to the data there seem to have been more but I’m writing through my own experience) One was around 2:37 am last night and 2:09 am the night before. The strengths of the shakes were both 2 out of 7 in Tokyo.
There was slightly larger one around 11 am on the Saturday 16th. 3 or 4 in Tokyo.
My friend was trapped in a tunnel of Shinkansen (bullet train) and was telling me how it was scary when the vehicle suddenly stopped, the lights turned off and there started an announcement notifying the passengers about the huge earthquake in Kanto (region around Tokyo). On top of that none of the passengers had internet access due to the tunnel, even though the shake wasn’t that big, it should be quite horrifying experience.