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Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009

Voters want end to pork-barrel politics

But some remain skeptical DPJ can fulfill all its pledges


By NATSUKO FUKUE and MARIKO KATO
Staff writers

As the Democratic Party of Japan formed one of the most hotly anticipated Cabinets in decades, many voters voiced hope the new administration will put a stop to wasteful spending while others remained skeptical it will be able to deliver on its key campaign promises.

"I think the most urgent thing they must do is address the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats to eliminate unnecessary costs and time wasting," said Tetsuya Inoue, 43, of Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

A 34-year-old Shinagawa Ward housewife agreed.

"I think it's crucial to cut wasteful costs in government," and improve medical care by doing so, said the woman, who only identified herself by her family name of Takagi.

She said the need to eliminate wasteful spending is the main reason she had higher expectations for the DPJ than the Liberal Democratic Party before the election.

According to a survey by the Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network, 30.6 percent of the population is hoping first and foremost that the new administration will cut government waste.

About 22 percent of the survey's respondents put priority on social security, including medical care and pension funds, while 20.8 percent want the Hatoyama government to focus on improving the economy, and 12.7 percent want better child-rearing and education policies. The telephone survey was conducted on 1,000 people chosen at random.

"I also want the DPJ to cut waste in government's spending. I think they'll be able to see the waste because they're new," said 27-year-old housewife Mayumi Oga in Chiba Prefecture.

Her husband said the government could cut waste by ending the cozy relationships among bureaucrats. While high-ranking civil servants receive large salaries, Oga's husband, who is himself a civil servant, said he is getting less money because of the recession.

"I hope the party will not cut my salary even further" as part of its waste-reduction plans, he said.

However, a 28-year-old civil servant in Saitama Prefecture who declined to reveal her name said she could not understand, as an ordinary citizen, how much the DPJ will be able to reduce waste by reassessing the roles of politicians and bureaucrats.

"I'm a civil servant, but I earn less than ¥200,000 after taxes. I have no idea how bureaucrats are benefiting from politicians."

Although many welcomed the DPJ's promise to cut waste, some were skeptical about its child allowance policy, which would give families ¥26,000 per child each month.

"I think the cash distribution policies, such as free expressway use and the child allowance, are not being thought through enough, and they probably will not be able to secure the funds," said 67-year-old Takeshi Hara in Shibuya Ward. Hara, a retired secondary school teacher, did not vote for the DPJ because he didn't have confidence in the party.

Oga the housewife also said she opposes the child allowance.

"I wonder where they get the money, and I think it's too simplistic. In the end, our burden will increase," she said. The Ogas do not have any children.

While Takagi, who has two children, thinks child-rearing expenses are stopping people from having as many children as they want, the civil servant in Saitama, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said the DPJ's child allowance is so modest it won't encourage working mothers to have more children anyway.

"Honestly speaking, some ¥300,000 a year is really a small amount of money for raising a child, especially if you want to send a kid to university," she said.

"I want the DPJ to open more nursery schools and kindergartens so more mothers can work, rather than distributing money."

She also said that if the number of working mothers increases, they will also be paying more taxes, and that this will be good for both families and the government in the long run.

Some voters said the DPJ should concentrate on improving the economy and job opportunities.

"It was a shame they didn't go into more detail about how to improve the economy," said Inoue.


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