Jigyo shiwake 事業仕分け - the ridiculous screening process last year in Japan

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Oct 10, 2010 06:48
I tried many times to explain what happened in Japan at the end of the last year. I wanted to tell about Jigyo Shiwake 事業仕分け, the screening process. But it has been so far unsuccessful. I need to build up my vocabulary on politics. Now I try to make a manuscript about it.


As you know, in August of the last year, there was a general election in Japan. The Democratic Party of Japan 民主党 (DPJ) soundly beaten the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party 自民党 (LDP). Japanese people were already fed up with numerous political scandals caused by LDP. This was the second time for LDP to be an opposition party in the recent 50 years.

The new government, ruled by DPJ, had to prove their competence of innovation. One of the biggest issues was economy, of course. The DPJ government wanted to carry out a deep budget cut.

The DPJ government held the screening process called Jigyo Shiwake 事業仕分け in November. The screeners called 仕分け人 were chosen from the members of parliaments (MPs 国会議員) and authorities of academia and industry. They seemed only interested in cutting budgets whatever the project was.

In the screening process, the screeners surrounded a representative of each national project. The representative, usually a government official 官僚 responsible for the national project, had to make a good presentation for 5 min and then to defend their project by answering questions from the screeners, otherwise the budget of the project must be said to be cut after less than one hour of the whole process. This was repeated for hundreds of national projects.

The problem was that the screened projects included all the major budgets for scientific research in that country. After 5 min presentation, those big projects were terribly accused by the screeners for 30 min. After that, virtually all the scientific projects were declared to have budget cuts, and some of them were said to be abolished. Those included development of next-generation supercomputer, and space rockets.

The entire process were live-broadcasted via internet throughout Japan. Mass media reported the screening process sensationally. Oh, it was a total mess.

Yes, the screening process is just like "Dragons' Den" (マネーの虎). Somebody preferred to say it was like a public execution. But this was seriously for already running national projects.

Heads of top universities in Japan issued emergency statements. Many scientific societies in Japan encouraged member scientists to send an e-mail to the government. Nobel prize winners issued a joint statement on television. All these efforts were to save the country from the stupid budget cutting. Science and technology in Japan was dying! The famous scientific journal 'Nature' reported the fuss of the screening process.

Then, after all, many of scientific projects survived. How? The screening process had no legal power in fact. The strong anti-screening movement also prevented its direct power. Was it only for showing off the DPJ screeners? Oh, ridiculous.