Fundamental Reform of Statistics Administration

Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic Organizations)
July 22, 1997

The statistical surveys conducted by the government must accurately grasp the actual conditions of Japan's economy and society, and the results must be provided to users in a timely and easy-to-use manner. At the same time, statistical surveys must be carried out under an efficient administrative organization so that an undue burden is not placed on those asked to supply information.

From this perspective, an inspection of statistical surveys in Japan reveals the following problems: (1) In a decentralized data-collection setup, each ministry and agency carries out its own surveys, and there is much duplication in survey content and such administrative work as management and compilation. (2) Staff members responsible for statistics are heavily concentrated on some ministries and agencies. (3) Some surveys have lost historical meaning and necessity, while others (informally known as yami, or "underground," surveys) have been conducted without any authorization. (4) Not much progress has been made in the mutual use of statistics among ministries and agencies or in the utilization of the "administrative records"--basic reference materials on laws and administrative rules.

For these reasons, the implementation of statistical surveys is strikingly inefficient. At the same time, an onerous burden is imposed on survey respondents.

In this context, Keidanren has been considering fundamental reform of the statistical system. We plan to submit our specific proposals this fall. In the meantime, in order to have our ideas reflected in the discussions of the Administrative Reform Council (chaired by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto), we have given precedence to studies of matters related to organizational reform of statistical administration and have put together the following proposal. The statistical administration setup we would like to see when the organizational reform is completed is explained in the attached material.

  1. Separation of Statistical Survey Implementation from Planning, Drafting, and General Coordination Functions
  2. According to the idea of reorganization of central ministries and agencies proposed by the Administrative Reform Council in interim report in May, each ministry should review it's law and specialize in planning, drafting, and general coordination functions; the surveys themselves should be conducted by an independent external agency.

    1. Retention of decentralized planning and drafting system

      Both to make good use of the expertise and deep experience of each ministry and agency and to respond to administrative needs appropriately , each ministry and agency should plan and draft its own statistical surveys.

    2. Concentrated implementation of statistical surveys

      To eliminate the current duplication of work and make effective use of the statistical staff members now concentrated on some ministries and agencies, a Statistics Agency (provisional name) should be established as an independent external agency and charged with conducting the surveys.
      The work of the Statistics Agency would include (1) implementation of surveys (design of survey style, distribution and collection of survey forms, input and compilation of data, and publication of results); (2)preparation of refined economic data and statistics (improvement of the System of National Accounts in Japan, compilation of secondary statistics, such as Index of Industry Product); (3) program and system development; (4) training of statistical survey staff; and (5) integrated management and recompilation of databases. In cases where it is apparent that the private sector can carry out the work more efficiently in terms of cost and period to publish the result of surveys, and other such factors, the agency should select a private business through competitive bidding and commission it to conduct the survey, on the condition that it protects the confidentiality of the information collected.

  3. Strengthening General Coordination: Transfer to a Cabinet Office
  4. If the decentralized style of planning and drafting is maintained, a powerful general coordination function will be indispensable to increase efficiency by eliminating duplicate survey items, as well as to reduce the reporting burden. Toward this end, the coordination function born currently by the Statistical Standards Department of the Statistics Bureau in the Management and Coordination Agency should be transferred to the Cabinet Office (provisional name), a newly established organ that would replace the Prime Minister's Office, where it would be placed in the Statistics Clearance Department of the Statistics and Information Bureau (provisional names).
    The Statistics Clearance Department should carry out the three administrative tasks listed below, all of which should be stipulated clearly in the law to establish the Cabinet Office. Working together with the Administrative Records Management Department (provisional name), another organ proposed for the Statistics and Information Bureau, the Statistics Clearance Department should as quickly as possible develop methods to estimate the total burden on the parties responding to surveys and providing information for administrative records and manage the statistics not to increase the total burden for the reporters.

    1. General coordination

      At the beginning of each fiscal year, ministries and agencies should submit draft plans for statistical surveys to be conducted in the following fiscal year to the Statistics Clearance Department. The department should screen these drafts, eliminate duplication, weed out items with little apparent need, and take other appropriate steps.

    2. Integrated management of budget allocations for statistics

      The department should manage the total budget for the implementation of statistical surveys in an integrated manner.

    3. Improved use of statistics and basic reference materials

      Official statistics and administrative records on laws are valuable sources of information collected using the taxpayer's money and should be the common property of the nation. In cooperation with the Administrative Records Management Department, the Statistics Clearance Department should promote the provision of statistical data and administrative records (including corporate financial reports) not only to ministries and agencies but also to businesses and the public in general. The department should also work with local governments to share both local statistics and administrative records (including basic document of property taxation). For this purpose, an on-line network that all public offices have access to should be built as soon as possible.

  5. Organizational Reform of the Statistics Council
  6. In order to establish a well-balanced and truly efficient statistical setup from the perspective of reducing the burden on the parties reporting information, expanding the use of official data, and bringing statistics into line with economic and social changes, organizational reform of the Statistics Council under the Management and Coordination Agency is needed. With the transfer of the coordination function for statistics to the Cabinet Office, the Statistics Council should be placed under this office.

    1. Revision of membership

      To promote the efficiency of statistical surveys, more representatives of organizations charged with submitting reports should be added to the council, thereby correcting a composition that is currently tilted toward participants like government officials and scholars.

    2. Establishment of a new subcommittee

      A subcommittee should be set up to analyze the cost-effectiveness of official statistical surveys. It should draw on, for example, U.S. systems which regard the amount of time required for report preparation as the proxy of report burden.

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