Just noticed that my NISA allowance for this year is 1,200,000. A most welcome change!
Set my electrons free!
A huge change is coming to Japan, and I only found out about it a few weeks ago.
The electricity market is going to be opened up from April this year, and consumers will be able to buy their electricity from a number of companies instead of their local monopoly.
I think this is a hugely positive step. I also find it hilarious to see the electricity companies slowly realizing that they will have to compete for customers instead of just sitting there enjoying government subsidies. My local utility, Tohoku Electric, just sent us a rather desperate-sounding leaflet announcing 'new pricing plans better suited to customers!' and 'loyalty points!'. Gee, thanks for subjecting us to pricing plans unsuited to customers for the last fifteen years... ;)
Personally, I would like to see cheaper bills but more importantly I would like to use only renewable energy. Softbank and even convenience stores are planning to enter the energy market, which will give the people of Japan a chance to influence energy policy through grass-roots action.
There's an explanation in Japanese here, and a Japan Times editorial here.
Now, there is a chance that prices will go up, but I don't see that as a negative if it pushes people to use more insulation or more energy-efficient products and think about their energy use more.
Did you know about the energy market plans? Any information to add?
Okay, this is the third and last post on the topic of the My Number (personal identification number) system .
I am not a fan of the system as I currently understand it. The UK has a National Insurance number that is used for tax purposes, but doesn't have photo ID cards with chips, nor does it attach the number to bank accounts, hospital records, or shopping.
The Japanese government is taking the scope of the system much broader in a very short time frame, seemingly without the understanding or consent of its citizens. I am worried about just how far that might be.
Having said that, I do like the fact that they printed my alias (Japanese name in kanji) on the card. It was taken off my zairyuu card (used to be on the alien registration card) so I am happy to see it back on official ID.
Despite this, I do not intend to apply for a photo My Number card.
It appears that currently there are no formal penalties for refusing to use your My Number (that was a bit painful to type!), making it similar to NHK payments in that regard.
I was briefly tempted to venture into nonviolent resistance by refusing to provide it to my employer and banks, but have decided to comply with the compulsory aspects of the new system.
I feel it is not really my place as a non-Japanese to engage in this kind of resistance, especially at work. I do hope that many Japanese people will do this and thus undermine the system, but will not be joining them at this time.
I also will not be doing anything that is not required. I will not be applying for the photo card and will certainly refuse to provide the number to anyone other than my employer and maybe my bank (I will see how many times they remind me to provide it and how close they get to closing my account as a penalty).
How about you? Any thoughts on the My Number system?
We are all numbers now
Just found this notice on the Rakuten Securities website. From next January, all stock dealing accounts must have a 'My Number' attached to them. This is, of course, for tax tracking purposes.
I presume bank accounts will be next.
This is an eye-opening interview/discussion in English of the My Number system. Well worth an hour of your time.
Some key points:
1. the My Number system is much much bigger than I thought it was. Think Big Brother on steroids
2. the main purpose is to cut down on tax evasion and asset hiding, but it's going to impact government services in a major way
3. I can't believe the Japanese public isn't kicking up a huge fuss over this
Michael Cucek also has a wonderful blog on Japanese politics.
... is 13.
Where would Japan be without cute mascots that contrast horribly with the products or services they advertise?
I received my My Number temporary card in the post the other day, so partly in order to get things straight in my own head I'll be putting down some thoughts today.
Unfortunately I am not an expert on this and don't think I fully understand the system and its implications, so please feel free to chime in with a comment, question, or clarification below.
The My Number system (マイナンバー) is also formally known as the personal number (個人番号) system. Its main stated purpose is tax and social security management. By allocating all residents a single number the government can better administer services, etc.
Right now local governments are sending out temporary cards that show your personal number and name, alongside application forms for 'free right now' more permanent IC cards that include a photo and can serve as ID.
You will have to inform your employer of your personal number from January, and it will be connected to the pension system later in the year (this has been delayed because of another huge data leak from the pension agency).
There appears to be massive mission creep with the personal number system, starting with this stealth attempt to encourage everyone to apply for an IC card (this is not compulsory yet) and culminating in Taro Aso's explanation of why you will need to present your IC card when doing your shopping to benefit from the reduced consumption tax on certain essential items.
Apparently it is too difficult for shops to keep track of different tax rates on different items, so instead you will present your personal number card at the checkout and the government will give you a tax refund of the extra 2% tax charged, up to a certain limit. Much easier than just having a different price!
The government failed to introduce ID cards a few years ago due to massive public unhappiness with the idea, and this seems to be attempt 2.0 on the part of the bureaucracy.
I suspect that in the future your personal number will be required to open bank accounts, and more and more businesses (mobile phone operators spring to mind) will start asking for it.
For now, I will not be applying for the 'convenient' IC chipped personal number card. I hope large numbers of Japanese residents will join me in this, as it will not be practical to mandate use of the cards without a critical mass of people that have them.
What do you think about the My Number system and its cute rabbit apologist? Anything to add to the above?
Ben Tanaka is a teacher living in Sendai, Japan.