Budgetary Issues

Budgetary Issues

This post continues my report on the October Oversight Council meeting at Jinja Honchō, based on the article in the November 2nd issue of Jinja Shinpō. You might want to start from the first part, or from the description of the Oversight Council.

The next item on the agenda was the budget measures. These had already been passed by the standing committee of the Oversight Council, so there was no vote, just an explanation.

This immediately raised questions. Revd Ashizu, a councillor from Kyushu, pointed out that the rules for Jinja Honchō require the Oversight Council to approve budgets, and asked for a vote. However, the director of the relevant department of Jinja Honchō said that the standing committee was, according to the rules, authorised to make these decisions in an emergency, and that there was no need to have the full council approve the budgets.

That is almost certainly true; it does not look as though the rules are being distorted or even strained here. However, I am not sure why Jinja Honchō did not want to give the council the chance to vote on them — I suspect that they would have been passed. Given that there is current vocal concern that the Oversight Council is not functioning as well as it should, it would seem sensible to emphasise its role by letting it vote. (If they denied a vote because they thought they would lose, then that is a different, and much more serious, problem, but I really do not think that was the case.)

This was followed up by another question from Revd Sano, about a special budget for “Activities in Reiwa 2 to Celebrate the Accession of the Tennō”. He pointed out that, normally, the budgets were debated together with a statement of what the money would be spent on. However, there was no such statement for this budget. That is, it sounds like the budget just said “this budget has X yen coming in, and will spend Y yen”. He asked for an explanation of what the budget would be used for.

That really does sound very reasonable, and it did merit a serious response from the director of the finance division. The income for this budget, it seems, was from the payments made by priests for the special increases in rank that were carried out to celebrate the Imperial Accession. Thus, he said it should be used for something appropriate to that. Jinja Honchō is looking at spending it on training for priests, or on further work on the ecclesiology of Jinja Honchō. (That is, the religious theory of what Jinja Honchō should be doing, and what it is for. “Theology” would be about the nature of the kami, which does not appear to be the concern here.) He emphasised that they did not want to decide on how to use the money behind closed doors, but rather would canvass widely for opinions, and take them all into account.

No-one could object to that, and it is possible that there are good administrative reasons for setting the budget before those decisions have been made (for example, there might be a legal requirement to have a budget for this financial year, even if, in the end, the expenses are all “balance carried forward to next year”). Still, I cannot help feeling that they should not have waited for someone to ask this question.

And, once again, I have run out of space. More next time.

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