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Editorial: Inefficient administrative tasks need to be reviewed but reforms must be effective

  • October 12, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 1:46 p.m.
  • English Press

It is important to alter tasks and customary practices that have lost their necessity due to changes in society and technological innovations.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed all government ministries and agencies to overhaul their administrative procedures, including the abolition of seals and written documents. It is understandable that the prime minister aims at promoting digitization within the government in order to implement policy items more efficiently.


There are more than 10,000 different procedures in society that require seals, including registrations for moving in to new addresses and proof of automobile registration. Taro Kono, the minister of administration and regulatory reforms, has announced that use of seals will be abolished for more than 90% of the 820 most-used procedures.


Eliminating the use of seals for applications and other documents would allow people to use computers and other devices to complete procedures and send documents online. The move to an online system for administrate services is a significant step in improving convenience.


In the private sector, encrypted digital signatures are becoming more widely used for identification purposes. The government must scrutinize the procedures where seals and paper can be abolished and others where they cannot.


Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa has announced the abolition of seals on marriage and divorce registrations. Some people may be puzzled by the change in established procedures.


It is unreasonable to hold up digitization as if it were a golden rule. It must not be forgotten that there are elderly people who cannot use computers adequately. It is important to examine measures from multiple perspectives to ensure that these vulnerable people are not left behind.


Takuya Hirai, minister for digital transformation, has insisted that, in principle, all textbooks in elementary and junior high schools should be digitized. The minister apparently has in mind a plan that personal computers and other devices will be distributed to all students at elementary and junior high schools by the end of the current academic year.


Many researchers have pointed out that using only digital devices will lead to a decline in understanding and reading comprehension. It is essential to give students the opportunity to encounter writing in printed text to develop their thinking skills. Digital materials must only serve as a supplement to paper textbooks.


Ideas for administrative and regulatory reforms have been announced by the government in quick succession. The government must steadily achieve results while ascertaining the objectives and effects of these reform items rather than just put up a performance to draw attention.


The themes for administrative reform vary widely. It is essential to reform the organization and structure of the government to cut costs.


Under the previous administration, the serious deterioration in the management of public-private funds that used the fiscal investment and lending program became a problem. However, reforms on this issue are ongoing.


Some of these funds have invested in areas where it is difficult for the private sector to take risks, but the investments have not increased profits as much as expected and losses have ballooned. If investment results are poor, the fund’s management must be improved and the lineup of top executives must be reviewed.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 11, 2020.

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