The Diet thinks about cutting some calories

July 29th, 2010 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

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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