Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Interesting Times

Interesting times at my current job. Things will get better again in due course. Meanwhile, a few things I've wanted to write about but never found the energy:

Honest BusinessmanA straightforward way to cut welfare costs and improve your ministry's economics: Refuse to accept welfare applications. Applicants would be refused application forms, or officials would refuse to accept and process the forms when presented. Three confirmed dead from this policy so far; but of course the welfare statistics look good. When it comes down to the wire - support your ministry or help the downtrodden people you're supposedly hired to assist - it's good to know which side these officials will come down on.

Teachers need certifications to teach. A certification is gained by passing a written and oral examination, and is given locally, at the prefecture level. It is a very competitive exam, with only one in ten or so passing each year. In Oita prefecture, officials have routinely boosted the scores of applicants that were relatives of government officials, or whose parents gave gifts of money or goods ("bribe" is such an ugly word, isn't it) to officials in return for having their children pass. In order not to have suspiciously many applicants pass, some applicants with neither connections nor money got their score lowered instead, having them fail. The two test officials are under arrest. Naturally, the higher officials on the take solicitous of their constituents' interests - the ones that assembled lists of people who should pass; or the well-off, well-connected parents who plied them with bribes gifts will likely not have anything so vulgar happen to them.

Tokyo University medical researchers have faked patient consent and ethics committee approval for a medical studies on leukaemia. For anyone not involved in research, this is a serious, major offence. In most places this would be grounds to cancel the research program and withdraw the funding. It would also likely be the end of the research career for the directly responsible. But I guess since it's Tokyo University they'll probably just have to apologize instead.

This is an interesting country to live in, but honest - honest it is not.

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