Home > News
  print button email button

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Aso's plan to split health ministry in trouble

Staff writer

Prime Minister Taro Aso's plan to split the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in two has apparently failed amid protests from members of his Liberal Democratic Party, drawing his leadership ability into question once again.

In mid-May, Aso proposed splitting the ministry so that one half could deal with social security issues, such as pensions, medical treatment and nursing care for the elderly, and the other could tackle issues like employment and the declining birth rate.

He was expected to make the revamp a key pledge in the upcoming Lower House election.

But a core part of the reorganization plan combines jurisdiction for nurseries, currently controlled by the health ministry, with that of kindergartens, which are controlled by the education ministry. This triggered outrage among lawmakers with vested interests in education, including such heavyweights as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda said Friday that it was an issue that needed to be discussed thoroughly.

"If we split it just because it is huge, problems could surface between the two split entities," Hosoda said. "This isn't an issue that we need to decide on immediately. . . . We need to hammer out the details."

The health ministry was established in 2001 by combining the Health and Welfare Ministry with the Labor Ministry as a part of a realignment of the government bureaucracy. The ministry's budget for fiscal 2009 is enormous, topping ¥20 trillion, and Aso was hoping to enhance its performance by splitting it in two.

Aso, often been criticized for his flip-flopping on policy, was once again targeted for derision after attempting to emphasize that he never gave orders to divide the ministry in the first place.

"No one ever said anything about just taking the health ministry and dividing it immediately," Aso argued Wednesday during the Upper House budget committee meeting. "What I said was why not consider reorganizing and strengthening ministries and agencies related to people's lives, like the health ministry or the Cabinet Office, to ensure the public's safety and security."

Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Katsuya Okada said he was "aghast" at Aso's sudden change of heart.

"A prime minister's words are grave but Aso always retracts them easily," Okada said. In this case, "Aso could not show an ounce of leadership because he was unable to coordinate with the lawmakers with vested interests."

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura stressed that the government had not given up on the reorganization.

We welcome your opinions. Click to send a message to the editor.

The Japan Times

Article 6 of 12 in National news

Previous Next

Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.