The New York Times

Japan Forces Bureaucrats to Defend Spending
The New York Times

Seeking to bring its spiraling debt under control, Japan has undertaken an unlikely exercise: lawmakers are forcing bureaucrats to defend their budgets at public hearings and are slashing wanton spending.

The hearings, streamed live on the Internet, are part of an effort by the eight-month-old government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to tackle the country’s public debt, which has mushroomed to twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy after years of profligate spending.

Greece’s debt crisis, which has panicked investors and forced the rest of Europe to put together a multibillion-dollar bailout, has fed fears in Tokyo that if spending is unchecked, Japan could become the center of the next global financial crisis.

Mr. Hatoyama and his ruling Democratic Party are also trying to wrest control of Japan’s economy from the country’s powerful bureaucracy.

“We want the public to see how their tax money is really being spent,” said Yukio Edano, the state minister in charge of administrative reform, who is heading the effort. “Then we will bring about big changes.”

“The bureaucrats looked scared,” said one attendee, Kenji Nakao, a 67-year-old Tokyo retiree. “It was very satisfying to see.”