Public hearings on 95.88 trillion yen of the initial budget FY 2014
(general account, 3.5% increase from this year) were held in the Upper
House Budget Committee on March 13, in which intellectuals voiced
requests for acceleration of the “third prong” growth strategy,
efforts toward a women-friendly working environment, and other matters.
Based on successive announcements by large companies to increase basic
wage levels after the spring labor negotiations, Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe showed an expectation that this trend will lead to increases in
basic wage levels in small- and mid-sized enterprises as well (on
March 14). Also, the industry minister Motegi said the government
plans to release survey information on salary figures (on March 13).
So far the discussions on the budget FY 2014 have been initiated by
the ruling parties. On Mar 17, the ruling camp suggested taking voting
on the budget in the Upper House Budget Committee on Mar 20, by which
the opposition parties have been repelled for inadequate deliberations.
Nonetheless, the budget bill has already been approved in the Lower
House on Feb 28 so it will automatically be passed into legislation
after 30 days since being sent to the Upper House for the
Constitutional provision. Simultaneously, the Budget Committee entered
discussions on revised income tax act and local corporate tax act on
Mar 7 and on revised local tax act and local subsidy act on Mar 12.
These budget-related bills will likely be enacted within this month.
*The state of deliberations in both Houses and committees are
available from the following websites.(Japanese only)
House of Representatives Internet TV：http://www.shugiintv.go.jp/en/index.php
Live broadcasts and video recordings of the deliberations in the
House of Councillors：http://www.webtv.sangiin.go.jp/
On Mar 12, the Lower House Cabinet Committee approved the bill on the
civil service reform which has been carried over from the last
extraordinary session in autumn. The bill entails plans to establish a
new Cabinet Personnel Bureau in the Cabinet Secretariat which will
control personnel of around 600 high-class officials in all the
central government ministries and that the Chief Cabinet Secretary and
ministers will jointly decide nominations of the bureaucrats. A
counterproposal jointly submitted by Your Party and Japan Restoration
Party, simultaneously discussed with the Cabinet’s bill, was rejected.
The Cabinet’s bill was approved in the Lower House plenary session
on Mar 14 and sent to the Upper House on the same day. Since the Upper
House will take priority on the budget, a passage of the civil service
reform will likely be sometime in April. The government plans to
establish a new Bureau to be composed of 161 staffs in May to prepare
for the next seasonal personnel-reshuffle in summer. Its chief staff
will be selected from one of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries.
On Mar 12, LDP and Komeito have finally agreed on reforms on the
Board of Education in the local governments. The draft bill plans to
(1) establish a new “education chief” (3-year’s term) to be
appointed by mayors/governors with consents of local assemblies, (2)
that the final responsibility on education (executor) will
continuously reside in the Board, and (3) to establish a comprehensive
panel on education as full-time body which will discuss and draft
basic guidelines on education including budget and ordinances chaired
Also, in eye of preventing excessive intervention by political
leaders, selection of textbooks and personnel of teachers were
arranged as matters exclusively handled by the Board of Education. On
matters related with bullying, the revised local education
administration act will entail provisions that enable the education
minister to release orders to each educational board.
Given the agreement reached by the ruling parties, the Cabinet
schedules to finalize and submit the bill to the ordinary Diet in
early-April. Toward an early passage of the bill, LDP and Komeito have
shown flexible attitude to accept consultative discussions with the
opposition parties. Yet, as Your Party and JRP have stressed views to
abolish the Board and to integrate educational authorities under
mayors/governors, the gap of views has remained as far apart so there
are uncertainties whether it will lead to coordination or confrontation.