japan = an idea to clean up its economic act .. go

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    By Lucas van Grinsven
    DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Japanese businessmen,
    academics and politicians cast aside their traditional reserve
    on Friday and called for an oriental version of the Boston Tea
    Party to end the bureaucratic elite's grip on power in Tokyo.
    The call, by a group of Japanese at the World Economic
    Forum, an annual high-profile gathering of the world's powerful,
    reflected their frustration at a decade of economic stagnation.
    The group has just published a paper called "Blueprint for
    Japan", aimed at laying bare some of the underlying causes of
    the country's problems such as high debt and lack of
    The group said the radical changes needed would only be
    possible if the Japanese population, still affluent and content
    despite a decade of economic stagnation, really found out how
    their taxes were wasted and government corruption flourished.
    "We need some kind of a revolution," said Jiro Tamura, a law
    professor at Keio University.
    "For the Boston Tea Party to happen, which it will, people
    will have to understand the tax system and corruption," said
    Joichi Ito, chief executive of venture capitalist firm Neoteny,
    referring to the dispute over tea taxes which triggered the U.S.
    fight for independence from Britain.
    To change the bureaucratic machine from the top is an almost
    impossible task and not a very appealing one, said Nobuyuki Idei
    the chief executive of Sony Corp <6758.T>, the world's largest
    electronics maker.
    "No Japanese businessman running a company wants to be the
    candidate for the top political position in this country. It is
    an impossible system we have," Idei said.
    "If Japan were a company, it would be bankrupt," he added.
    Motohisa Furukawa, an Member of Parliament and policy maker
    for the opposition Democratic Party, said the government should
    be decentralised and power should be taken away from the
    bureaucratic elite who effectively manage the country.
    "We lack transparency and accountability and this has
    contributed to the chain of discontent," he said.
    "One of the core issues is that Japan is not a democracy. It
    has really a single body of power. It doesn't have multiple
    points of authority, diversity and critical debate," Ito said.
    Tamura said Japan was not a law-governed state but a
    bureaucrat-governed state. The absence of a strong legal system,
    with only 20,000 lawyers for the entire country of 125 million
    people, meant that public authorities ruled on disputes they
    were involved in, he said.
    All speakers said the risk-averse Japanese educational
    system continued to power this development.
    It was left to Carlos Ghosn, not a Japanese but a Frenchman,
    to point to what could be achieved.
    Ghosn has breathed new life into car maker Nissan <7201.T>
    after he took over the helm in 1999. Under his tenure, the
    company has cut debt, raised profit margins and market share and
    seen its share price multiply.
    "Nissan is a perfect example that change is possible in
    Japan," he said. "And it was done by 99 percent of the old
    Ghosn acknowledged he had had an advantage in that there
    already was a sense of urgency when he took over, as everyone
    agreed at the time that Nissan was in a dire state.
    MP Furukawa said this sense of urgency for economic or state
    reforms was not yet clear among the Japanese population.
    "People are reluctant to change. It's still just too
    comfortable for us," he said.
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