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Editorial: Distrust in Japan gov't will grow if errors in bills are not explained

The budget for fiscal 2021 has cleared the Diet, which now heads into the second half of its ordinary session.

    Ruling and opposition parties will discuss individual policies, starting with a bill related to digital reforms whose main pillar is Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's centerpiece initiative to establish a digital agency.

    But before deliberations have even begun, an unprecedented situation has already emerged, with a series of mistakes uncovered in bills, the text of a treaty, and related documents submitted by the government.

    The Japanese government's response to the coronavirus is, as before, behind the curve. The errors it has made now amid these circumstances could fuel further public anxiety and distrust.

    The government has acknowledged mistakes in a total of 23 proposed bills and one treaty linked to 13 government ministries and agencies.

    For example, in proposed digital reform legislation, spelling and numerical errors, among other mistakes, were found in 45 places in related documents. There were even mistakes in the documents issued subsequently to correct the issues.

    As a result, officials were forced to take the unusual response of newly issuing corrections to the corrections.

    Other bills with mistakes in their proposed revisions include the Act on Strengthening Industrial Competitiveness, the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Defense and the Banking Act.

    Why did these simple mistakes become rife?

    Is it because ministries are running low on personnel as they're forced to respond to the coronavirus? Did the mistakes increase because more officials were working remotely from home? Or is it that, to get results, the prime minister rushed to submit the documents? Is morale among bureaucrats falling? Whatever the reason, it's a serious issue.

    The government must quickly investigate the cause of the mistakes.

    Meanwhile, the problem of senior officials at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and others being treated to expensive dinners by private companies, has yet to be settled. Could this treatment have distorted the government process? The government has taken a backward stance when it comes to shedding light on the matter.

    We must not forget, moreover, that the prime minister refused the appointment of six candidates to the Science Council of Japan. The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been channeling their efforts into organizational reforms at the institution, but still haven't explained the central issue as to why Suga refused to appoint the six academics.

    In its coronavirus response, the government needs trust from the people. As Prime Minister Suga recalibrates his governance, he should give honest explanations for all of the issues. Recovery of the public's trust will come only from that.

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