Is CLAIR squandering taxpayer money?
The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), the governmental organization responsible for the JET Program, could be in trouble. Popular Osaka governor Toru Hashimoto has started questioning CLAIR’s use of funds and has announced that the Osaka government may reduce its financial backing to CLAIR next year (90% of CLAIR’s financial backing comes from money paid by local governments, and Osaka pays a big slice).
A TBS feature news program took a look at CLAIR, focusing on Hashimoto’s charges that local governments pay large sums of money to fund activities of questionable importance (This is only a partial clip of the show. If anyone can find the full video, let us know so we can post it!):
Below are some brief notes on the contents of the video.
- Most of CLAIR’s executives are former high level government bureaucrats. This is a prime example of amakudari, the practice of offering high salary jobs to former bureaucrats in the hopes of receiving preferential treatment from their contacts within the government. An executive interviewed claims there is nothing corrupt going on: CLAIR has merely hired former high level bureaucrats because of they have the necessary skills to run the organization.
- CLAIR has established several overseas offices. The report examines CLAIR’s New York office, finding that it costs a huge amount of money to maintain. CLAIR seems to think it is important to send workers from local governments across Japan to the New York office, but the nature of their work – entertaining/guiding visiting Japanese legislators, writing a few reports, and organizing sister cities programs – may not seem to justify the cost. Rent for the Manhattan office is very high (about $40,000 a month) and its interior is spacious and clean. Those working for CLAIR in New York have huge cubicles, while Osaka city employees must work in old cramped offices. (TBS also seems to have a problem with the fact that CLAIR’s website mentions how workers in New York can enjoy bagels and coffee on the weekend. )
- CLAIR has been receiving much more funding than it needs to maintain its current operations. It has saved up billions of yen, which may be used to set up even more overseas offices in the future.
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