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Japan - Cabinet and Prime Minister

The cabinet, the majority of whose members must come from the Diet, is the supreme decision-making organ of the executive branch of government. The prime minister, who heads the cabinet, has the right to appoint and dismiss ministers of state (kokumu daijin) who make up the cabinet. He or she presides over cabinet meetings and may exercise his or her right to control and guide the various sectors of the state administrative apparatus. So-called cabinet resolutions are reached on the basis of a unanimity of views. The prime minister and all members of the cabinet must be, according to the constitution, civilians.

The constitution also states, executive power shall be vested in the Cabinet. However, the cabinet has under its control and coordination a number of ministries and other central administrative organs to which it delegates the exercise and control of many routine tasks of Japans central government. As part of reform efforts that were aimed at increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, in January 2001 the executive branch of the government underwent an extensive reorganization in which the number of existing ministries and ministry-level commissions and agencies, 22 at that time, was cut almost in half. In addition to the newly created Cabinet Office, the cabinet includes 11 ministries, the 11th being created in January 2007 when the Defense Agency became the Ministry of Defense. As of 2011, each ministry is headed by a minister of state appointed by the prime minister. Each minister is assisted by one or two senior vice-ministers and up to three parliamentary secretaries. These officials are usually members of the Diet.

The Cabinet Office was created by the 2001 reorganization in order to strengthen cabinet functions and the prime ministers overall policy leadership capability. Headed by the prime minister, the Cabinet Office drafts plans and provides comprehensive coordination from a level one step above other government ministries and agencies. The Cabinet Office oversees the Imperial Household Agency and three external bureaus: Fair Trade Commission, National Public Safety Commission, and Financial Services Agency. In addition to the ministers of state for special missions, the Cabinet Office also includes the following three important policy councils: Council for Science and Technology Policy, Central Disaster Management Council, and Council for Gender Equality.

Taken together, the Cabinet Office, the ministries, and the various agencies and commissions are known as the central government offices (chuo shocho). As of 2011, Japans central government offices operate according to a system based on a pyramidal structure of rank. Responsibility for setting the boundaries of authority of the posts within each ministry and agency rests in the hands of the cabinet members.

In Japan, persons who are engaged in administrative activities in the various central government offices, including vice ministers (jimu jikan) and all ordinary public servants of lesser rank, are selected on the basis of national public service examinations; their jobs are not political appointments nor are they subject to being lost as a result of political power changes at the cabinet level. After the reorganization of government ministries, the privatization of Japan National Railways, and the privatization of the postal service in 2007, the number of national public servants (excluding members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces) stood at 333,800 as of 2010. At the end of January 2001, before the ministries were reorganized, the number of public servants totaled 1.268 million. The constitution specifies that all public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof.

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Page last modified: 23-02-2016 18:10:32 ZULU