RIETI Report July 2002

Japan Has Not Lost a Decade <RIETI Featured Fellow> NAKABAYASHI Mieko

This month's featured article

Japan Has Not Lost a Decade <RIETI Featured Fellow> NAKABAYASHI Mieko

NAKABAYASHI Mieko Fellow, RIETI

Greetings from RIETI

The past ten years is said to be Japan's "lost decade." Indeed, Japan has lost much of the inflated value of its assets with the burst of economic bubbles, Japanese people have lost confidence in themselves, and the sense of stagnation prevails. The past decade, however, may not have been a total waste for Japan. RIETI President and Chief Research Officer Masahiko Aoki says Japan is in the midst of major institutional transition, noting that subtle but very significant changes are taking place in decision making process for political and public policies. One-party rule by the Liberal Democratic Party ended in 1993 and the Ministry of Finance abandoned its long-held convoy system for banks and other financial institutions. As part of the government's administrative reform, the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and the Council for Science and Technology Policy have been created to bring more political leadership into play. University reforms are finally taking place. For instance, national universities are going to be administrative independent agencies with non-civil servant status, which means that professors at national universities are going to be free from the many restraints on civil servant. More flexible and collaborative research and business will be possible.

Mieko Nakabayashi, who joined RIETI as a fellow in April after spending almost 10 years as a staff member of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, says: "The past ten years has been a necessary step for Japan and now is the chance to drastically change Japan's social and institutional systems. This is also a great opportunity to rethink the top-down elite democracy of today and explore a new type of democracy. Democracy is not an established system but an evolving process. And the evolving process for Japan's democracy has begun."

The evolving process in the past, however, has not been easily recognizable for the general public. Should competition occur in providing clearer and easier-to-understand explanation on the ongoing evolving process, Japan's democracy may become more matured. RIETI takes it as one of its missions to explain in plain words what is happening in Japan in its quest for a new democracy and convey to the rest of the world the ongoing process of Japan's institutional changes.

For Aoki's column on Industry-University Cooperation, click here

PUBLICATION

Discussion Papers

"Whither East Asian Economic Integration?" (02-E-007), June 2002 by Naoko Munakata
For Discussion Paper (PDF), click here
For summary, click here

"Evolution of Japan's Policy toward Economic Integration" (02-E-006), June 2002 by Naoko Munakata
For Discussion Paper (PDF), click here
For summary, click here

RIETI FELLOWS NOW

NAKABAYASHI Mieko
Ms. Nakabayashi has been a fellow at RIETI since April 2002.
She became the first and the only Japanese permanent staff member of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee in January 1993 after receiving a MA degree in Political Science from Washington State University. Her expertise is international comparison of budgeting, fiscal policy issues, and legislative infrastructure.

For her column on Fiscal Policy in US and Japan, click here.

Her publications and papers include:
"September 11 Terrorism and the U.S. Congress" The World Studies, Takushoku University, Tokyo, 2002
"Washington's Musical Chairs," Foresight, Shincho-sha, Tokyo, 2001
"Policy Making and Committee System," Policy Analysis Review, Tokyo Foundation, Tokyo, 2001
"The Capitol Hill Tsushin." Shokun: Bungei Shunju-sha, Tokyo, 1994-96
"Modern Military Mind and PKO." Shokun: Bungei Shunju-sha, Tokyo, 1992

She says she realized in the US that democracy is an evolving process itself, and not an established system. By participating in the US budgetary process, which is a limitless evolving process, she saw the essence of democracy, she says. "In Japan, people were given democracy before they really searched for. Because it enjoyed economic prosperity, people did not really think about democracy.
Now is a good chance for the Japanese to start a discussion on what we really want in the future."

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