Posts Tagged ‘The Diet’

Politicians’ pay: Even more than you think

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Hirohisa Fujii, head of the Democratic Party of Japan's tax panel, listens to recent panel deliberations about a proposed tax hike to pay for reconstruction. (Kyodo photo)

In October we talked about how national assembly members’ pay was going back to normal after six months of pay cuts in the wake of the March disaster. At the same time, the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda failed in its attempt to cut civil servant pay by 7.8 percent because Rengo, the union federation that represents government workers, demanded reinstatement of collective bargaining rights as a concession, which the opposition Liberal Democratic Party wouldn’t go for, so the measure was defeated in the Diet. Because Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan was pushing for the 7.8 percent cut it postponed the voluntary 0.23 percent cut proposed by the National Personnel Authority, so in the end bureaucrats are getting paid the same amount they’ve always been paid. Actually, they’re getting even more since last week they received bonuses that on average are 4.1 percent higher than they were last year.

The government pay situation is a huge PR problem for the administration, since it’s about to ask the public to accept a tax increase to pay for reconstruction. To put things in the proper perspective, the basic monthly salary for a Diet member is ¥1,294,000 and his/her yearly bonus amounts to ¥5,530,000. According to the national tax agency, the average salaryman working for a private company in Japan earned ¥295,000 a month in 2010, and received yearly bonuses of ¥580,000. So on an annual basis, a national politician receives more than ¥21 million and a salaryman a little more than ¥4 million.

But there’s more. Each lawmaker is allowed ¥1 million a month for tsushin kotsu taizai-hi (communications, transportation and lodging expenses). This allowance is supposed to be spent on anything having to do with sending documents to or communicating with constituents on matters of a “public nature,” which basically describes anything a politician does. However, lawmakers are not required to submit receipts showing how they spent this money, so that’s an extra ¥12 million a year, tax-free.

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Politicians hope you don’t notice when their pay goes back to normal

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Nice work if you can get it

Six months is a long time, and considering all that has happened since the March 11 earthquake, the past half-year may seem even longer. So it wouldn’t be surprising if a lot of people have forgotten that the Diet passed a law shortly after the disaster to cut their own salaries by 30 percent for a period of six months. This gesture was on top of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s forfeiture of his own special prime minister’s allowance, not to mention the 10 percent additional cut in salary for all members of the cabinet as a budget countermeasure, which has been in force since the Yukio Hatayama administration.

Next month things go back to normal, and maybe the lawmakers are hoping the electorate has forgotten, but at least one person, Kenji Eda of Your Party (Minna no To), is determined that people will remember. On Sept. 27, during the budget deliberation talks, he asked Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda whether or not he would forfeit his prime minister’s allowance, just as Kan did, for the sake of reconstruction. Noda, of course, is expected to ask for a long-delayed increase in the consumption tax as a means to fund reconstruction, which, over the next decade, is estimated to cost ¥11 trillion. As it turns out, while Noda as a Diet lawmaker has had his salary cut 30 percent like everyone else, it seems he’s been receiving his prime minister’s allowance, calculated on a daily basis, in full since he took over from Kan. Noda answered that the cabinet would continue with the 10 percent cut but said nothing about his own pay.

This is notable in that one of the items in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto was a 20 percent cut in all personnel costs, covering pay and expenses of all government employees, politicians and civil servants alike. Had the DPJ actually carried through with that promise, they could easily come up with the ¥11 trillion needed for reconstruction. Of course, at the time the manifesto was made the savings were envisioned to pay off Japan’s debt, so by itself the 20 percent personnel expense cut isn’t enough.

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The Diet thinks about cutting some calories

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Follow the money

Follow the money

On July 30 a special Diet session will start and last about a week. The main purpose is to fill posts that may have been left empty or have changed as a result of the July 11 Upper House elections. However, Minna no To, or Your Party, as it’s called in English, has requested a discussion of national assembly members’ pay for the month of July. As it stands, all national politicians receive salaries in monthly installments. The new members elected several weeks ago did not take up their posts until July 26, which means for the month of July they only accumulate six working days. However, according to the law, they are entitled to a full month’s pay, which comes to ¥2.3 million for each member. Nice work if you can get it.

Minna no To campaigned on a platform of reduced government spending, and that includes cutting personnel costs related to politicians and bureaucrats, either by cutting jobs or reducing salaries. So the party is proposing to pay salaries on a daily basis (hiwari) rather than on a monthly basis. If everyone agrees, then the pay for July, distributed Aug. 10, would only be ¥440,000, which is still pretty good. The government would thus save ¥130 million, which isn’t much compared to what they could have saved if they had a similar law in place last summer after the Lower House elections. Those freshman lawmakers took their positions with only two days left in August and received a full month’s pay. A hiwari law would have saved the government ¥580 million.

Given the current budget deficit, these savings are little more than symbolic, but apparently they’re a symbol that the citizens like. All the media outlets conducted street surveys and found unanimous support for such a law, which apparently prompted the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to change its mind. Originally, it opposed hiwari, but now it has said that if Minna no To can get an agreement from other parties it will go along with it.

The feeling is that the government made a big deal of asking the Japanese people during the election campaign to suck it up and accept a consumption tax increase but is nevertheless unwilling to reduce its own pay by even a little bit for work they aren’t even doing. And as representatives of Minna no To have said, they can pass such a bill in a day without much deliberation, so if any legislators resist, everyone will want to know who those legislators are.

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