Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Bureaucratic Japan - Bad Hospitality

Japan's bureaucracy is very costly. It creates jobs, and survives for its self-reinforcing audit functions. But bureaucracy is typically inhospitable.

First experience of Japan for most visitors is the rat maze at Narita airport, briskly processed by dutiful officials. Arriving visitors to Japan must fill-in by hand multiple immigration and customs forms, although traveler details are already within electronic databases (in contrast, when traveling to Sweden there's no such paperwork). Travelers arriving in Japan have photo & fingerprints taken after passport scan --  for many, this is their first fingerprinting experience (uncomfortably, data is then shared among global intelligence agencies). The overall experience is bureaucratic and not welcoming!

But this is only the first affront of Japan's costly bureaucracy. Huge corruption at Olympus and Toshiba was ignored, as was criminal food mislabeling by high-end restaurants in Japan over many decades. Corrupt persons flow between sectors, so overviews are often best available from foreign sources.

Bureaucracy maintains the right to assert itself into every transaction under the rubric of either audit or security ("protecting taxpayer money" for public-funded expenses). We expect consistency, so discourage public officials from being individually imaginative; most have little time and no investigation budgets. They attack low-hanging fruit lacking defenses. Tiny operations are crucified and closed, while monsters roam free. This happens everywhere. The US Justice Department found huge big business corruption fueling the 2008 financial crisis: but failed to prosecute individual major criminals. Government levied billions of dollars in corporate penalties, but while the amounts collected seem large, the bureaucracy recruited to protect us costs more.

Japan's army of officials looks at other nations such as the USA or South Korea and judges Japan not highly unusual or demanding, but they typically misread the situation. Operations should be compared to best practices, not merely aspiring to average-level annoyance. And someone must ask if the project and data collected are truly important, rather than simply confirming data is entered in each & every question box.

Tourists have many options, and places such as Sweden & Singapore offering an excellent welcome, smooth entry & warmer hospitality understandably draw resources steadily away from Japan...

Welcome to Japan!  (島根県警察本部)