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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

Ary Hermawan, editor-at-large and PhD student at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne, in The Jakarta Post (July 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)

The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

As the Covid-19 second wave engulfs the nation’s most populous island, we can no longer ignore how the ongoing health crisis has exposed the structural problems underpinning our democracy, how the state has failed us in one of the most challenging times in history.

The pandemic is a disease that exacerbates the ills of society. It is a test case for every political regime in the world. Indonesia is sadly among the worst performers. After all the pandemic carnage, we cannot afford to sustain the social and political comorbidities that have brought us to where we are today. We should no longer let state power lie in the hands of a select few who are elected to office through either corruption or patronage.

These are real problems that have severely compromised our democracy. Our elections have become just another means of accumulating wealth and power for those already endowed with both. Our democracy is far from inclusive; only those with strong financial backing can successfully run for office.

When Joko “Jokowi” Widodo became president in 2014, we thought the people had won in the struggle against the elite. How wrong we were. He was forced to appease the political bigwigs and oligarchic powers just to stay in office and do his job. With political-business elites having such sway, we should not be surprised that policies seem to favor those elites and that during these challenging times, the government seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Corruption and rent-seeking remain rampant during the pandemic, which may have even provided a bigger opportunity for the elite to get richer and more powerful. There is no quick fix. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a structural transformation of our body politic is past due.


To Preserve Liberal Democracy, Young People Should Become True Citizens
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
To Preserve Liberal Democracy, Young People Should Become True Citizens

Jun Sang-in, Professor in the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University, in Chosun Ilbo (May 22, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Alexey Matveichev)

To Preserve Liberal Democracy, Young People Should Become True Citizens

The recent reversal of the votes in the Seoul and Busan elections have put national focus on the 20-30-year-old age group. Generation MZ, as they are called, account for 33 percent of the population. The millennials, the M, include those born between the mid-80s and the mid-90s, while Generation Z includes those born after who have grown embracing the digital world.

These generations are the first in the country’s history who have been “gifted” citizenship in a democratic country. Since the liberation from Japanese occupation, liberal democracy struggled to bloom in the country. It took decades of fight and sacrifice to achieve what we now take for granted. In contrast, the Generation MZ have no experience in participating in the struggle and are “accidental citizens” in an already established system, for which previous generations fought hard.

American social activist Peter Palmer once confessed to be part of a generation that did not know about civic duty. Born in 1939, his generation was born into a country already lush with wealth and freedom, where the hardship of being a first-generation immigrant was but a legend and the suffering during the Great Depression and the Great Wars were but history. It was only when he started to notice the degradation of American democracy and a series of social crises that he realized that democracy is not something we “have” but something that we as citizens must “do”.

Similarly, because they did not have to fight for it, Generation MZ may take the current system for granted. The success and preservation of our democracy will depend on this new generation to progress from being “accidental” to becoming true citizens who continue the act of nurturing and protecting our hard-earned liberal democratic system.


Lending A Hand To The Myanmar Military And Their Injustices
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Lending A Hand To The Myanmar Military And Their Injustices

Endo Ken, Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy of Hokkaido University, in The Mainichi (July 3, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Brian Kelley)

Lending A Hand To The Myanmar Military And Their Injustices

Since Myanmar military coup in February, over 800 people have been killed in crackdowns and hundreds have gone missing. Security forces have been arbitrarily detaining and torturing people. Their reckless actions are inexcusable and unjustifiable.

Japan has been weak to show its diplomatic presence against what is going on there and even worse, seems to be lending a hand to the military. The situation is nearly identical to its response to the Tiananmen Square incident that occurred more than 30 years ago in Beijing. The Japanese government then systematically supported China's Communist-Party ruled government, which was responsible for the massacre of its own people, and later lifted sanctions ahead of others.

The Japanese government boasts of its "own channel of communication" with the Myanmar military, but it is not willing to stop atrocities. Japan, as one of the leading donor countries to the Southeast Asian nation, is supposed to exercise its influence through actions such as a total suspension of aid. But Japan is anxious about pushing Myanmar closer to China and ruining its positive bilateral relations if it imposes sanctions together with the US and European nations.

The military regime appears to take advantage of Japan's concern. Japanese taxpayers lack awareness over how their tax money is spent. Japan has provided over 100 billion yen ($900 million) a year in assistance to military-ruled Myanmar, while their loans are often written off. Although new loans have been suspended, projects which are already under way are continuing. We should list companies which maintain relations with the brutal Myanmar regime and put them under surveillance.

Authoritarianism is rampant across the globe. What is happening in Myanmar will serve as a touchstone for Japan, a country seeking to maintain freedom and democracy, with respect to how the country can progress.


Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President

Rigoberto Tiglao, columnist and former presidential spokesman, press secretary and chief of staff, in The Manila Times (June 30, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: International Rice Research Institute)

Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President

The death of former president Benigno Aquino III is an occasion for us to learn from history. There were four attributes of his administration that were seriously detrimental to us as a nation.

First, Aquino had a tight hold on media, whose influence on people's minds was even stronger than during Ferdinand Marcos's strongman rule because of its expertise in clothing lies as truths. This was not because this media believed in Aquino, but because they not only were owned by oligarchs who saw Aquino as their own but were managed by Yellow cultists who saw him as the son of their saint.

Second, the Philippine Catholic Church had been Aquino's prime defender and supporter. Never again should we have a president that the Catholic Church fanatically supports. This is the only country in the world where the Catholic Church insists on being a kingmaker that meddles in politics. That should be ended if we are to usher in a modern state.

Third, the US solidly backed the Aquino presidency. US strategists after all love unquestioning puppets, as they are most easily fooled. The big reason the US supported Aquino so much is that exactly at the start of his presidency in 2010, the Obama administration launched its so-called "Pivot to Asia" program, a thinly veiled campaign to reassert its hegemony in Asia, contain the rise of its adversary China, and drive a wedge between it and Southeast Asia.

And fourth, Aquino was the quintessential oligarchs' president. Aquino was even so much the elite's puppet that he adopted a belligerent stance against China to force it to give up its claims so the enterprise of three of the biggest oligarchs could continue its extraction of hydrocarbons there. Never again should we have an oligarchs' president.


Improving The Electoral System And Quality Of Governance
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Improving The Electoral System And Quality Of Governance

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Legislative Councillor and barrister, in Ming Pao (March 18, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China)

Improving The Electoral System And Quality Of Governance

The National People’s Congress (NPC) has adopted the decision to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system by eliminating radical pro-independence political forces. This will ensure that only capable patriots, including those who are not in the pro-establishment camp, can participate in Hong Kong’s governance. One of the expected consequences of this decision is that moderate and rational voices of the opposition will no longer be bullied and refuted by the radical forces. The diverse voices among the patriotic camps can resume cooperation and Hong Kong's political landscape can finally return to normal.

Radicalism and violence have spread like a virus among the opposition camp over the past decade. Due to the proportional representation system of Legislative Council (Legco) elections, increasing numbers of radical voices have gained seats with just a low percentage of the vote. Over the last two years, all opposition parties have become radical, and parliament has seen increased friction. As a result, the ability of the government to improve people's livelihoods has almost become paralyzed.

Because of the NPC decision, the number of parliamentarians will increase and there will be greater room for cooperation. Legco will also have more seats and operate a new channel to join the Council. Candidates must be social leaders who have expertise, ability and willingness to serve the public before they can be approved by the election committee to join. This will ensure the election of patriots and improve the overall quality of governance in Hong Kong.

It is hoped that a healthy and functioning Legco can return to serve Hong Kong. If people’s livelihoods can be improved, the public will come to understand that the decision to improve the electoral system will have helped establish a solid foundation for the future development of Hong Kong.


Because Of The Pandemic, People Have Tough Decisions To Make
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Because Of The Pandemic, People Have Tough Decisions To Make

Tay Boon Suat, consultant and member of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, in Lianhe Zaobao (January 29, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Because Of The Pandemic, People Have Tough Decisions To Make

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only created the biggest economic crisis Singapore has ever faced, but it has also severely affected the lives of all Singaporeans. Under this new normal, citizens have several decisions to make.

First, businesses. The government has allocated nearly funds to rescue companies, restructure bank loans, and provide additional credit financing. This is only a short-term fix and companies must ultimately rely on their own abilities to survive. If the situation deteriorates, more than half of local retail companies may collapse within six months. The lack of foreign tourists, high rent and operating expenses are additional pressures. In this era of the Internet of Things, business owners will need to decide how to adapt and transform to survive. The pressure created by the pandemic can be seen as a good opportunity for business owners to change their way of operating.

Second, family financial planning. According to a recent survey, Singaporeans’ basic financial planning performance worsened in 2020 from the previous year. Passive income fell while the amount of borrowing from relatives and friends has risen. The number of people having difficulties in repaying their mortgages has also increased. Restrictions on international travel, however, mean that households are spending less on expensive habits such as taking holidays abroad.

Educating children on the nature of money and making wise financial decisions should be the main goal of Singaporeans today particularly as young people are facing adversity. College students may be unemployed after graduation, and those currently working could be laid off. Everyone will need to be prepared be ready to enter new fields of work at any time.

How the government, companies and citizens make these decisions amid the challenges of the pandemic will ultimately determine Singapore’s future.


The Flood Season Begins – And The Budget for Drainage Is Insufficient
Monday, July 5, 2021
The Flood Season Begins – And The Budget for Drainage Is Insufficient

Misheel Lkhasuren, columnist, in The UB Post (June 14, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Michael Eisenriegler)

The Flood Season Begins – And The Budget for Drainage Is Insufficient

After heavy rain in Ulaanbaatar, roads and road tunnels are flooded every summer, causing inconvenience to pedestrians and drivers. Due to insufficient of storm drainage system, residents have no choice but to jump over and tread the puddles and pools that form after rain. In some cases, floods make it impossible for people or even cars to travel.

This shows that the surface drainage system is not well developed in Ulaanbaatar. Moreover, there are not enough drainage and drainage wells. An estimated 180 billion MNT (US$63.2 million) is needed to rehabilitate 1,100 km of roads in Ulaanbaatar and install drainage lines and wells. With such a budget, the city’s roads will not have water-related problems.

This year, however, only 1 billion MNT (US$351,000) was budgeted. In other words, as the budget was halved, it is clear that the construction of drainage pipes this year will be less than last year. Furthermore, it is unclear when the city will get rid of flood issues.

Roads are being repaired every year, and new roads are being built, but no drainages are being built with them. In any case, roads with drainage pipes are very rare in Ulaanbaatar. This summer has once again reminded us of the need to build more drainages. If it is not possible to build additional drainages on existing roads, it is important not to repeat the previous mistakes when building new roads.


The Vaccine Divide and Economic Recovery: Public and Private Sectors Should Work Together
Monday, June 28, 2021
The Vaccine Divide and Economic Recovery: Public and Private Sectors Should Work Together

Jo Ha-hyun, Professor of Economics at Yonsei University, in Munhwa Ilbo (April 30, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Yonhap)

The Vaccine Divide and Economic Recovery: Public and Private Sectors Should Work Together

Despite the South Korean government’s initially ambitious target to achieve herd immunity from Covid-19 by November 2021, the many delivery issues have made it impossible to meet that goal. It will be impossible to secure the needed quantity of Moderna vaccine, the top choice among Koreans, in the first half of the year. As for Pfizer, it is unclear that the additional 20 million doses which the government claims to have secured will be delivered.

Korea currently has a very low vaccination rate of 4.7 percent which is 35th out of the 37 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Compared to vaccine leaders such as Israel and now the US and the UK, both of which have attained around 50 percent of their populations, the vaccination-rate divide in the world is widening. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that the economic growth of the US and the UK will be 6.4 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. It does not take a scholar to see a clear link between the vaccination rate and economic recovery.

An analysis of the data from the 37 OECD countries data reveals that a one percent increase in vaccination rate is closely followed by around a 0.021 percent boost to economic growth. For both the national health and the economy’s sake, maximum effort must be put on securing more vaccine doses. This should include increased cooperation with the private sector to do so. When the country faced a similar challenge during the oil crisis, private companies actively did their part to secure the petroleum for the country. This is a time for the private and the public sectors to work hand in hand to save lives and put the economy back on the fast track to recovery.


In This Civilized Age, Superstition Should Be Wiped Out
Monday, June 28, 2021
In This Civilized Age, Superstition Should Be Wiped Out

Bùi Hoài Sơn, professor and Director of the Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts, in Viet Nam News (April 19, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Wagner T Cassimiro “Aranha”)

In This Civilized Age, Superstition Should Be Wiped Out

Social development leads to a number of consequences that make many people feel insecure, anxious and turn to religious beliefs as a consolation. Many individuals and organizations have built spiritual tourist sites, creating spiritual activities to fill that need. Also increasing this need is the impact of new media (social networks) in disseminating information and creating online communities to connect religious and spiritual practices. 

This practice has both positive and negative consequences. The positive thing is that the spiritual beliefs and practices help people be more determined in their work. Practicing religion is also part of traditional culture. Traditional cultural values are thereby maintained and strengthened by Vietnamese society as the country integrates into the global system. 

There are some negative consequences, as it leads to the restoration of unsound customs and pushes some people to superstition, adversely affecting the spiritual and material life of each individual and family. A lot of scammers take advantage of beliefs and spirituality for profit, and many highly educated people still believe in superstition. 

The boundary between religious practice, belief and superstition is quite fragile. Religion and belief contain many good values. Each person's life will become happier and more worthy of living by pursuing the values that religion and beliefs bring. To properly practice religions or a belief, we need to first understand the nature of it.

Religion or belief teaches people to think well, live well, and do good things for others. When we do that, society will certainly be good. When we practice the right religion and belief, we will create a lifestyle that respects the traditions in the family. Other factors, without scientific basis, are not the nature of religion or belief, and therefore, are not conducive to individual personal development and should be removed from social life.


With Great Power Comes Greater Irresponsibility: Big Tech Needs Regulation
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
With Great Power Comes Greater Irresponsibility: Big Tech Needs Regulation

Ram Madhav, Member of National Executive, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization, and Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation, in India Today (June 4, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

With Great Power Comes Greater Irresponsibility: Big Tech Needs Regulation

Big Tech companies including social media giants have grown big and powerful. With size grew their indifference and intransigence too. Governments are increasingly finding it untenable. Countries like China, Russia and North Korea used their authoritarian regimes to take a hard-line against the tech giants. Several European countries have taken steps to limit the power of these Big Tech companies and protect the privacy of their citizens. Having experienced the unprecedented power of these companies including the audacity to ban the Twitter handle of the president of the country, the US has initiated hearings to look into the possible power abuse committed by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The Government of India's response can be described as mild and moderate. Twitter should understand this from the fact that instead of dismissing its self-righteous statement accusing the Indian police of "use of intimidation tactics" and a "potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve", the IT Ministry thought it necessary to issue a lengthy three-page rebuttal.

We are living in a technology-intensive world. The 21st Century world has moved on from multipolarity to “heteropolarity”. A heteropolitan world is one in which international power is no longer limited to national governments. We are passing through a transition into the heteropolar world. There will be debates over actions of the governments. Tech giants controlling social media platforms stubbornly resist any regulatory efforts.

It is important to build a national consensus over the need for a rational regulation that would not affect free speech but helps protect the privacy and dignity of the individuals. Big Tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter cannot continue to resist these moves claiming self-regulation.


The Terrifying Cost of Enforced Modesty
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The Terrifying Cost of Enforced Modesty

Pervez Hoodbhoy, physicist and writer, in Dawn (June 19, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: brewbooks)

The Terrifying Cost of Enforced Modesty

Implementation of the government’s Single National Curriculum (SNC) has started in Islamabad’s schools and for students the human body is to become a dark mystery, darker than ever before. Religious scholars appointed as members of the SNC Committee are supervising the content of schoolbooks in all subjects including science. In the name of Islamic morality they have warned publishers not to print any diagram or sketch in biology textbooks that show human figures without clothes.

For the teaching of biology this surpasses existing de facto prohibitions on teaching evolution, the foundational principle of biological sciences. Illustrations are crucial to explain the digestive system and human reproduction, as well as the mammary gland. Diagrams, sketches and human skeletal forms cannot be draped. Excluding these from schoolbooks reduces the teaching of biology to a farce.

Inhibitions about the human body, of course, have been around for much longer than SNC. It is just that henceforth there will be still more. When enforced, clerical interpretations of modesty cause people to suffer grievously. For example, ex-senator Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan roundly condemned diagnostic devices that can look inside women’s bodies because, “we think that men could derive sexual pleasure from women’s bodies while conducting electrocardiogram (ECG) or ultrasound”. Claiming that women would lure men under the pretext of medical procedures, the maulana’s party banned ECG and ultrasound for women by male technicians and doctors when in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Trained females, however, were not to be found.

By inviting mullahs to regulate biology textbooks the government has put Pakistan in reverse gear. Pakistan is not just in reverse gear; it is hell-bent upon moving backward as fast as possible. The kind of mixed-up, confused and ignorant generations the curriculum changes will produce in times ahead is absolutely terrifying.


The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity

Mel Sta. Maria, Dean of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Law, in Rappler (June 17, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Greger Ravik)

The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity

The report of the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder was committed” in the conduct of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, prompting her to finally ask the ICC to conduct a full investigation, is news in many parts of the world.

If ever it proceeds, President Duterte and all those named in the request for full investigation will be given due process. As the president’s followers would say, “You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide.”

President Duterte must welcome this full investigation not only for the sake of his own name but for the country. Because if he is truly innocent, he will be rightfully vindicated and the country’s tarnished reputation corrected. He should not evade the process utilizing technical grounds. The investigation is good for the country.

There is a saying that justice must be done though the heavens fall. The case of a Philippine president as the subject of a request by an international prosecutor for full investigation for crimes against humanity is historic. Whether or not you are for it, let us all monitor this unprecedented development.


Why It Is Necessary To Prohibit “Anti-Communism"
Monday, June 21, 2021
Why It Is Necessary To Prohibit “Anti-Communism"

Lo Man-tuen, Chairman of Wing Li Group (International) Ltd, Vice Chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, and Executive Director of the Hong Kong Association for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, in Ming Pao (February 22, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: David Dennis)

Why It Is Necessary To Prohibit “Anti-Communism"

Since the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL), the issue of “anti-communism” in Hong Kong has again garnered attention. The term specifically refers to those who deny the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership. There are at least two reasons on why anti-communism must be prohibited in Hong Kong.

First, anti-communism poses significant harm to "one country, two systems". Opposing the basic system of the country led by the CCP is against "one country, two systems". If Hong Kong does not prohibit anti-communism, "one country, two systems" will not be able to guarantee stability or long-term development.

Second, on a practical level, the introduction of the NSL means that the issue of anti- communism can no longer avoided. This is because Article 1 of China’s Constitution clearly stipulates that “the socialist system is the fundamental system of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)." Articles 22 and 23 of the NSL state that "overthrowing and undermining the fundamental system of the PRC established by the Constitution" is a crime of subverting state power. As a result, anti-communist speech and actions are illegal and must be investigated in accordance with the law. Against this backdrop, “anti-communists” will no longer be eligible to run for elections or to enter the establishment of the Hong Kong. This will become political law, according to Article 6, paragraph 3, of the NSL.

Finally, school education in Hong Kong is Westernized and full of anti-communist content. The school system must therefore also prohibit anti-communism by eliminating relevant courses and ensuring that national education courses cultivate respect for the leadership of the Communist Party and are compatible with "one country, two systems". This is the basic premise of prohibiting anti-communism in Hong Kong and the Special Administrative Region government should attach great importance to it.


Young Executives are Transforming the Corporate World
Monday, June 21, 2021
Young Executives are Transforming the Corporate World

Kim Yong-sub, director of Trend Insight & Business Creativity, in Hankyoreh (April 18. 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Jeon Han/Korean Culture and Information Service)

Young Executives are Transforming the Corporate World

In an office, those with about four years of work experience are in their late 20s or early 30s. They typically oversee the operation but do not traditionally hold much power in the organization. A recent performance-evaluation scandal, however, shows that this traditional power structure might be in for a great shake-up.

The spark at semiconductor conglomerate SK hynix was started by a member of the junior staff who boldly sent an open email demanding transparency in the performance matrix system. Traditionally, such a “revolt” would have been easily dismissed, but as other young staff joined in applying pressure on management, dismissal was no longer possible. Despite their relatively insignificant individual power, this group collectively had clear leverage because of their numbers and their tactics.

The movement quickly spread to other conglomerates, including Samsung, LG and Hyundai. Young executives all over are now making collective demands for greater transparency and reforms. At LG Electronics, they set up the first-ever office worker union headed by somebody with only four years of experience. This movement is likely to continue and lead to an overdue transformation of the top-down management structure in most Korean companies, starting with demands for a greater transparency and the dismantling of the performance-matrix system that traditionally rewarded employees based on years of service and not merit.

The world is changing, and 20- and 30-year-olds are driving that transformation. They did not appear out of nowhere, but their impact will grow as they discover the bargaining power they have as a group in a traditional corporate world that for too long simply dismissed them.


The Government Is Taking A Risk Of Olympic Proportions
Monday, June 21, 2021
The Government Is Taking A Risk Of Olympic Proportions

Ito Takatoshi, deputy vice minister for international affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Japan (1999–2001), Professor of International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Adjunct Professor and Professor Emeritus at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), in The Japan Times (June 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Dick Thomas Johnson)

The Government Is Taking A Risk Of Olympic Proportions

As of June 15, Japan had the second worst vaccination record among the 38 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with 20.9 doses per 100 people. Contrast that with the United Kingdom’s 106.1 doses per 100 people and the US rate of 93.3 doses per 100.

Why is Japan lagging so far behind the rest of the OECD? For starters, the government was late in securing purchase agreements with vaccine producers, not least because the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was reluctant to provide rapid emergency approval for the new vaccines.

Japan has a history of controversy over vaccine side effects. During the Covid-19 crisis, the authorities insisted that a clinical trial for vaccines be conducted in Japan before approval, even though large-scale randomized controlled trials had already been undertaken elsewhere. Another obstacle for Japan’s vaccination program is the rule that only medical doctors and nurses may administer doses.

Even if the state of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka is lifted as expected, there is no guarantee that another wave will not demand new lockdowns soon. With the Olympic Games scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympic Games from August 24 to September 5, such a wave could be more like a tsunami.

Without herd immunity (or something close to it) in Japan, hosting the Tokyo Games is a risky bet. Suga could win big: If the games are a success, and infections do not rise, he is more likely to be re-elected as the leader of his Liberal Democratic Party, at which point he might even call a snap general election. But that does not change the fact that he is willing to gamble with people’s health, livelihoods and lives.