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Interview: Ex-panel head worried over delay in Japan’s digitization

  • August 15, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 10:30
  • English Press

Tokyo, Aug. 15 (Jiji Press)–Hiroko Ota, who chaired the Japanese government’s Council for Promotion of Regulatory Reform for some three years, has voiced worries over delays in the country’s moves to overhaul its systems and regulations in response to rapidly progressing digitization. 

“How to handle regulations is a very big issue as digitization has entered a new phase in the fourth industrial revolution,” Ota, special professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said in a recent interview.

 

“Although the speed of technological changes is very fast and new technologies are spreading also very quickly, work (in Japan) to reform related systems and regulations is falling behind,” she said.

Noting that different rules are applied to bus, truck and taxi operators, for example, Ota said, “Vertically segmented laws don’t fit the ongoing digitization wave.” She thus suggested that the situation could make negative effects from the delayed regulatory reforms even greater.

The set period for the regulatory reform panel expired at the end of July. A successor body will be launched as early as this autumn, kick-starting the reform drive by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

At conventional government councils, their secretariats comprising bureaucrats set themes and draft reports, but at the defunct panel, its members, including those from the private sector, talked about what topics should be taken up, heads of subgroups wrote drafts of their reports and members themselves sweated and negotiated with government offices, Ota said. The panel therefore was “quite unique,” she pointed out.

Ota said that it would be difficult to obtain understanding of employment regulation reforms, for instance, unless overhauls of rules for job training, and social security and tax systems are promoted in an integrated way.

“I hope that the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and other government panels in charge of debates from a big-picture perspective will first create an ideal overview and the planned new reform council will then discuss specific regulations,” Ota said, while noting that there will probably be some phases in which the prime minister will be asked to exercise leadership.

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