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Monday, August 29, 2005

'Don't stop the reforms' - Koizumi


「改革をとめるな。」 - 小泉

Cycled home again from work today. Apart from a couple of days a few days ago we’ve been having fine weather virtually everyday meaning I’m getting lots of legwork in just by commuting. Beats being squeezed up against strangers in a train with a middle-aged suit-and-tie’s Brylcreamed bad haircut right under your face. 6pm and it’s already noticeably darker, there’s a lighter, cooler feel to the air that makes you feel a few degrees more energized than you did under the hot wet blanket of summer that was still heavy over the city only a week or so ago.

One thing the slight retreat of the heat does is release a new set of smells: nothing particularly identifiable, but all of them somehow a little sharper, fresher, more pungent – whether pleasant or not. Especially noticeable on a bicycle, I suppose. You don’t usually walk far enough to get as big a sample of odors, and stuck in a car or a train you’re also stuck with pretty much the same smells for the whole trip.

Got home, cleared my mail out of the letterbox, and found the pictured flyer from the LDP. There's an election coming up on 9/11, of all days. The flyer reads down the right ‘Don’t stop the reforms’. The opening line says ‘I’m making a renewed effort to privatize the Post Office’. I’m too tired from work to read the whole thing: the densely written manifesto continues over to fill the whole of the other side too. But anyway, Koizumi’s staking his whole career on the success of his so far unsuccessful attempt to privatize the PO. He is apparently proposing to split it in four and release the vast sums of cash deposited in it to the market.
So far that money has been largely funneled into Japan’s infamous ‘road to nowhere’ public works projects. The countryside is littered with concrete monstrosities that this kind of spending spawns: there not for any purpose beyond the twin one of reassuring the ‘lucky’ locality that they haven’t been forgotten and employing tens of thousands of construction workers, many of whom would otherwise be unemployed, perhaps even homeless.

The amount of that kind of spending has been drastically cut, however: 4.5% of GDP now as opposed to 9% in 1996. Has that got something to do with the fact that walking though Shibuya the other day with Norio we saw a guy in his early to mid 30s sitting in a busy plaza with a felt-penned sign ‘Looking for work’?

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