[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Journal ]
Messages from "Economic Trend", November 2004

Toward a Policy-centered Style of Politics

Kenji Miyahara
Vice Chairman, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman, Sumitomo Corporation

Almost two years have passed since Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) unveiled the policy proposal "Envisioning a Vibrant, Attractive Nation in the Twenty-First Century" in January 2003. Our efforts on this so-called Okuda Vision, nicknamed after Keidanren Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, have progressed to the stage of getting the various proposals implemented. In a new endeavor to hasten the realization of a "vibrant, attractive nation," Keidanren in autumn 2003 announced 10 policy priorities to focus on over the next one-year period.

In January this year we completed the first stage of an appraisal of Japan's political parties, judging them in terms of the fit between their policy platforms and Keidanren's policy priorities and taking into consideration budget funding and legislation preparations. Then, in late September, we conducted a second appraisal based on the subsequent activities of the parties in the National Diet and the progress made on our priorities through measures that were put into practice.

In this way, with our sights set on centering political activities on policies, we completed the first round of what amounts to the initial endeavor in Japan to evaluate parties in terms of policy promises and accomplishments and to make the results public as a reference material for political donations.

This being a new initiative, we can hardly expect Japan's political parties to have already fully grasped its significance. We hope that as further rounds of appraisals are conducted, the Keidanren appraisal process will become established as a practice appreciated both by those doing the appraising and by those being appraised, and that the parties will strive to refine and polish their policies, thereby enlivening the political process.

Inherently, seen from the side of the parties, politics should involve appealing to the electorate on the basis of policies and gathering voluntary political donations from sympathetic people. Seen from the corporate side, meanwhile, the company is a social entity that has been assigned the mission of bearing a commensurate share of the costs necessary for providing political infrastructure, that is, for strengthening the ability of parties to formulate and promote policies. With Keidanren's policy evaluations serving as an impetus, my hope is that a greater number of companies will develop an interest in politics and contribute donations to the headquarters of the parties whose policies they favor, perceiving this to be a contribution they can make to the healthy development of our parliamentary democracy.

Keidanren is at the same time strongly urging the parties to channel the donations they receive from the private sector into policy formulation and promotion, to see that these funds are used efficiently and effectively, and to keep the public informed of how the funds are being employed. It pleases me that both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan have responded to Keidanren's proposals with renewed efforts to center politics on policies and to enhance funding transparency. The realization of a policy-centered style of politics backed by transparent funding will, I believe, mark the first step toward restoring the confidence of the Japanese in our country's political system.

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