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Seven things NOT to learn from Japan.

Roberto Henry Ebelt

16.12.2011

Seven things NOT to learn from Japan.

I don’t have any idea of whom the author of the text below is, but it shows, in a very clear manner, that Brazil is not so distant from Japan. As far as I understood, the text below is connected with the nuclear catastrophe that took place early this year (2011) in Fukushima.

 



1. Blind adherence to rules.

Trucks going north carrying aid and supplies were halted because they did not have the proper permits, or fell afoul of rules, which kept truck roads closed to all vehicles except emergency vehicles. Helicopters could not drop off supplies, even if they did not land, because that was against the rules. As a result, supplies sit and rot in the south while Japanese starve in the north.


2. Decision making slowed by need to constantly compromise and save face.

Japan is suffering from a fuel shortage, yet it has plenty of fuel. By law, oil companies are required to keep 70 days of fuel as an emergency reserve. After the disaster, they waited to be told to release the fuel. Yet also by law the government could not order them to do so, merely suggest that they do so. So nothing happened. After 10 days, a compromise was found. The government reduced the requirement to 45 days of fuel, allowing the companies to release the rest of the fuel.


3. A restrained media.


One reason why the Japanese government failed to declare a state of emergency and to act quickly was because the Japanese media under-reported the crisis because:

a) they felt they were supposed to minimize panic and
b) they were fixated on the relevance of the disaster to the elites in Tokyo.


4. Hierarchy and unwritten rules of deference.

Japan's Parliament has accepted the reports of civil servants without questioning them. When, for example, senior officials at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) assured Parliamentarians that there was no fuel crisis and everything was being handled properly, they muted nodded and no one questioned how accurate the report was.


5. Top-down government only works when there is leadership

The government, until now, is still reacting to problems rather than getting ahead of them. It has failed to put together a crisis team of experts from various fields, or to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts. People at the bottom are waiting for the leaders to tell them what to do, but the leaders do not know what to do themselves, and are just reacting to the situation.


6. One party rule created the nuclear problem.

Until the Democratic Party (DPJ) took power, in 2009, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been in power almost continuously for 55 years. The one party rule corroded Japan's institutions of government. This included nuclear power, where it has now been revealed to have a shameful record of cover-ups, lackadaisical (lacking energy, lacking enthusiasm; disinterested, apathetic; lazy) crisis management, and complicity between regulators and utilities. Before the disaster, calls for change and greater oversight went unheeded (adj despercebido, ignorado, negligenciado. It went unheeded / passou despercebido).
Japan's admirable safety record was not due to its system.


7. Partisan politics produces unwillingness to cooperate.

As the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) had been in power for almost all of Japan's post-war history, they should understand the difficulties of governance and cooperate with the DPJ in this time of crisis. Yet they have rejected the DPJ's offer of a national unity government and continue to engage in petty (petty means small, little; unimportant, insignificant; trivial) point-scoring in Parliament over the budget. This is one consequence of the winner-take-all style of politics in Japan, where the opposition is vilified and attacked rather than treated as loyal opposition. It doesn't matter who is in power, the problem is the political culture has become toxic to the idea of cooperation. This lack of debate and compromise will only encourage further poor planning and thinking about how to solve Japan's problems.

Japan's people, so rightly praised for their stoicism and heroism, deserve better.

Seven points that are well known to Brazilians, unfortunately. If the world has one BIG problem right now, it is the lack of sensible* political leaders.


*SENSIBLE: adj. rational, reasonable; wise, judicious; cognizant, aware; able to be perceived; perceptive, able to perceive; considerable, appreciable.


Have an excellent weekend.


Tags: Roberto Henry Ebelt, ensino, inglês


Roberto Henry Ebelt é professor, escritor, escreveu uma coluna semanal para o Jornal do Comércio de Porto Alegre entre 2001 e 2013, e é diretor do curso HENRY'S BUSINESS ENGLISH desde 1971.

Seu mais recente livro, O QUE VOCÊ DEVE SABER ANTES DE ESTUDAR INGLÊS, pode ser encontrado nas livrarias Disal, Cultura e SBS ou à rua Hoffmann, 728 em Porto Alegre.

E-mail: roberto@henrys.com.br
Fone (51) 3222-3144
www.henrys.com.br
Página no Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/henrysbusinessnglish/?pnref=lhc




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