Saturday, September 01, 2007

The First Casualty of the New Abe Administration?

Takehiko Endo, the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, is the head of an agricultural mutual aid cooperative that illegally received an extra 1.15 million yen in government subsidies for its agricultural disaster mutual aid fund by inflating the number of subscribers to the fund. Of the 265 subscribers it claimed it had, 105 had not even been aware that their names had been used. The fraud was discovered in 2004 by the National Accounting Agency, but after three years, the money has yet to be returned.

Mr. Endo says that he is not resigning, claiming that the butler manager in charge did it and that he did not order it. Whichever; I think that this looks at least as bad as the political financing irregularities that took down Norihiko Akagi, for practical purposes the previous MAFF Minister, though not quite as serious as the influence peddling charges that likely led to the suicide of Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who in turn preceded Mr. Akagi at MAFF.

This reminds me of those Japanese ghost stories, where the ghost keeps coming back, again, and again, and again, until the main character goes insane and kills himself. He often manages to take down a lot of people around him in the process. A chilling summer staple of the mainlly humorous rakugo, the Japanese sit-down monologue genre.

Incidentally, Chief Cabinet Secretary and everybody's favorite Kaoru Yosano is saying that they are reserving judgment until Mr. Endo explains himself. They are not interested in the explanation (if they don't know by now…), they want to know how it plays in the media. I think they ought to be more proactive, though they're damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

ADD. In Japan, men sometimes shave their heads as a sign of atonement. Maybe that's what Mr. Endo has done. Or he doesn't have that option in the first place.

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