Japan's research and development community has been hurt less by the economy's drawn-out slump than have other areas, but it has not escaped without scars. On the positive side, funding for basic and applied research has retained its ranking near the top of the priority lists of both government and private-sector decisionmakers. This does not mean that research budgets are sacrosanct. As the slowdown has dragged on, the pressure on research programs to add to the bottom line has increased, as have uncertainties about job security among R&D staff.
Domestic economic problems plus surging competition from abroad have forced Japan to reexamine its research strategies and operations. Both government and business are exploring new approaches to boost the efficiency and the productivity of R&D activities. Besides more carefully evaluating the potential gains from a current or a proposed research program, government and industry officials are seeking ways to make better use of existing R&D resources. Improving the transfer of technology from academia to the private sector is one key strategy that is attracting growing attention.
OBUCHI ELECTED LDP PRESIDENT; CHOOSES PARTY LEADERSHIP TEAM by Barbara Wanner
Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi was elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party July 24. His selection capped an unusual week in Japanese politics, one that featured U.S.-style policy debates among the three candidates for the party's top position and the use of secret ballots rather than wheeling and dealing behind closed doors to pick the new LDP chief. Of the 413 votes cast by the 366 LDP members of the Diet as well as by party representatives from the 47 prefectures, Mr. Obuchi garnered 225, a solid majority. His challengers, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama and Minister of Health and Welfare Junichiro Koizumi, received 102 votes and 84 votes, respectively. Two party members abstained.
OBUCHI FACES TOUGH ECONOMIC PROBLEMS by Douglas Ostrom
Japan's all-but-certain next prime minister, Keizo Obuchi, may be forgiven for wondering why he wanted the job. As new data reveal on an almost daily basis, he will face economic problems more severe than those confronted in recent decades by any prime minister with the possible exception of Takeo Miki, who inherited power in December 1974 from Kakuei Tanaka in the midst of the first oil crisis.
MARKETS RESERVE JUDGEMENT ON OBUCHI ELECTION by Jon Choy
Japanese voters were not the only ones watching closely as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party voted in a new leader July 24. Stock and currency traders around the globe were looking for signs that the new LDP chief chastened by his party's poor showing in the July 12 upper house elections would move rapidly and decisively to resolve the nonperforming-loan crisis that has paralyzed the banking industry and to otherwise get the economy going. Like voters, market players were unimpressed by the selection of Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi to lead the LDP and, thus, the nation. However, unlike voters who will have to wait for the next elections, stock and currency traders were in a position to show their sentiments immediately and forcefully.
UNITED STATES, ASEAN PRESS OBUCHI ON ECONOMIC REFORMS by Eric Altbach---
Prime Minister-designate Keizo Obuchi made his international debut under harsh scrutiny as he undertook a whirlwind 12-hour visit to Manila to attend the July 27 meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum. On arrival July 26, he held talks with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. While the exhaustive negotiations required to select a cabinet had kept him extremely busy at home, Mr. Obuchi took time off to go to Manila to explain his economic policies to key regional and world leaders. He was greeted by exhortations from Asean foreign ministers as well as Ms. Albright that Tokyo must do more to speed Japan's economic recovery and to lead Asia to a return to growth.