Monday, 10 May 2004

Back to the Scandals

As we all know, well, anyone who lives in Japan or reads this blog regularly knows, Japan, as well as being the land of the rising sun, is also the land of the rising public and/or political scandal. And we have two more this week.


is first up. Yes those lovely chaps who bought you world rally championships and...and...oh yeah, Zero fighters that kamikaze pilots used in WW2, have been hitting the headlines recently in what can only be described as the plot to a John Grisham novel.

Essentially what happened is this. Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, as well as making cars, are a bit of a dab hand at making big trucks. They have a decent market share and are one of the major players in Japan, and I guess the world, of trucking. Anyway, a couple of years ago, in the mid-nineties, there was an accident where a wheel came off a mitsubishi truck whilst the truck was travelling quite fast. It rolled down the street and hit a couple of pedestrians, killing a small kid or two and injuring a few others.

So, usual story, govt called for an inquiry, MMC did some tests and said "not our fault, truck was fine so must have been dodgy maintenance by the owners". But they lied, the cheeky buggers, as the real report found there was an inherent fault with the wheel hub which meant that they were prone to do this sort of thing. So the good bean counters at MMC did their number crunching and, as in the John Grisham novel, decided that a cover up was the cheaper option than recalling all the trucks with this defect.

But now someone has found out, at last, and all the top brass at Mitsubishi, especially any of those to do with trucks, are now getting very edgy indeed whilst some, like ex-MD Akio Hanawa, have already been arrested on charges of telling great big whoppers. Soon he will have to stand up in a room full of people, bow a bit, say he's really sorry, maybe squeeze out a tear or two and then he will be let off, as that is how major corporate scandals are dealt with in Japan. Then he'll probably go and commit suicide.

Anyway, one very important and unforseen outcome of this Mitsubishi scandal, perhaps the most important issue really, is now the Guru will never let me buy an Evo...

And in Politics

As you may have read here before, somewhere, Japan is heading for a serious problem with an aging population. This is much like the rest of the Western world really, but unlike a lot of countries in the West, Japan doesn't really like foreigners so doesn't really want them here to bolster the work force.

Anyway, all this is old ground but one area we haven't touched upon before is pensions. Again like the west Japan is facing a big problem with the number of people paying into the govt pension schemes isn't sufficient to blah blah blah. You get the picture.

So obviously the govt. are exhorting all and sundry to keep up their payments and if they haven't started yet, to get on with it. One reason they are panicking is that young people seem disinclined to pay into the schemes as they think, quite rightly it would seem, that they are never going to see any of the money they pay in as it will have been frittered away by the baby boomers.

Now in the UK it seems pretty straight forward, you have a job, you pay national insurance. But in Japan there appears to be a way around it, although I don't now how (although being a gaijin is a pretty good way of getting by). But now it appears that quite a few govt ministers have been found out - they haven't been paying their contibutions. And not just a few back benchers in the ruling LDP. This seems to have been across party lines and almost to the top. On Friday last week, Yasuo Fukuda, the LDP Chief Cabinet Secretary, resigned over non payment. Fukuda, as Chief Cabinet chappy, was really the right hand man to Koizumi and in a very powerful position.

His crime, like the MHI chaps earlier, was to lie about it in the first place. Back in April he said that he had paid all his dues up to the age of 60, but then in May this suddenly changed to "oh, except for 2 years in the early nineties and a few months in 1995, but that doesn't really matter, does it?" But thankfully it did as finally the Japanese people, again as mentioned here before, are starting to reject the 'do as I say don't do as I do' attitude that has been around for so long. And good on them I say.

Looking on the bright side...

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