Never waste a good crisis. What better crisis than the March 11 triple-whammy of earthquake, tsunami, and a Level 7 nuke plant accident?
Japan's embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his administration have formally decided on their plan to assign a unique number for every single Japanese citizen so that they (the government) can smoothly manage and handle important individual information like income, public insurance, medical care, pension, and tax.
From the Asahi article below, they will also get information about bank accounts of the citizens.
It will be sold as a good, convenient thing in Japan, along with "large scale" wind farms and solar farms (key word is "large-scale"), "smart grid", and a host of other government initiatives (like "eco-towns" to be built by shaving off hills and mountains) after the quake/tsunami/nuke accident. More power and control to the government. Will the Japanese buy it?
From Asahi Shinbun (6/30/2011):
菅政権の政府・与党社会保障改革検討本部（本部長・菅直人首相）は３０日、国民一人ひとりに番号を割りふって所得や社会保険などの個人情報を管理す る「社会保障・税の番号制度」の大綱を正式決定した。番号の名称は「マイナンバー」で、２０１５年１月の導入を目指し、今年秋の臨時国会にも法案を提出す る。
The Kan Administration has formally decided on the framework to introduce "the numbering system for social security and tax", in which a unique number is assigned to each Japanese citizens to manage income and public insurance. The number will be called "My Number". The administration aims at introducing this numbering system in January 2015, and will submit the legislation during the extraordinary session of the Diet in autumn.
The Kan Administration has been designing the system along with the tax and social security reform, in order to better assess the impact on low-income households after the consumption tax rate is raised. By tying various information to one common number for a citizen, the government can increase the sense of fairness among citizens in taxation and distribution of public benefits. The number may be used to reduce the paperwork when registering the domicile.
The numbers will be used in pension, medical care, assisted living care, welfare, workers insurance, and tax. It will be also used for deposit withdrawal and insurance payout at the time of a disaster like the March 11 earthquake/tsunami. The government will consider expansion of the use of the numbers by 2018.
OK.. Benefit for the citizen: sense of fairness, ability to withdraw money from the bank when disaster strikes. Benefit for the government: information on bank accounts, income, tax, where the citizen lives.
They don't even bother to translate "My Number", pronounced in Japanese as "ma-i nan-bah" into Japanese. I'm not sure whether all Japanese know what "my" is and what "number" is, but that's precisely the point, probably. If you tell them exactly what it is in Japanese, there may be some who will say "Wait a minute...".
"Oh don't worry the government already has our numbers anyway, just the matter of putting all those numbers together, what's the big deal? Nothing is private any more in this day and age" would be the comment from the defenders of "My Number", I am assuming.