Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Perhaps Japan Red Cross Not To Blame?

Whenever I screw things up or make an error, I want t be the first to say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake."
BEATLES - HELP!
In the case of my recent blog criticizing the Japan Red Cross for delays in getting relief funds to the victims of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, I may have been mistaken.


Marriott Hotel in Ginza, Tokyo Japan


Mr. Hiro Kosugi, who is a good friend of mine and who is also the Marriott International Regional Director for Global Sales for Japan & Korea, writes in an explanation of the situation. This is an excellent rebuttal and so well written that I asked for his permission to post the entire mail. Mr. Kosugi says: 


On your blog about the Japanese Red Cross Society, I totally agree with you on their overall bureaucratic slowness to respond. However, I saw some points that you either missed, or did not touched upon that your readers may misunderstand. I hesitated to write this email, but I thought I should be the one to point them out instead of someone else you do not know.

The process of the fund allocation was clearly stated on JRC's web site as early as March 14. I cut and pasted their message from their website:

If you wish to send your donations directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society, you can donate online, or direct your funds to the following bank accounts. All funds received under this account will be transferred to the Distribution Committee, which is formed around the local governments of the disaster-affected prefectures. These funds will be distributed directly among the affected population. We are currently requesting the government to establish the Distribution Committee as soon as possible. - JRC News on 3/14/2011

As you can see, what took placed on April 15 is not that "the JRC finally decided to allocate the money", but rather "the JRC was finally given the instruction on how to allocate the money."

The real problems were 1) the time that the federal government took to create the Fund Distribution Committee and 2) the time this committee took to make a decision. Please note that it was on April 7, when Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano announced that the government decided to set up this committee. I hardly say this is the fault of the Red Cross on this particular case. It is the current Japanese Government's yet another mismanagement example.

This recovery efforts will take unbelievably long time. The money the JRCS gave to the Distribution Committees is supposed to be the first of many such monetary assistances given to the victims up north. I just hope that no money will be wasted while executing this project.

Also, your blog made it look like the JRC did not do anything until they finally transfer the money to the Distribution Committee, but that is not true, either. For this Tohoku Disaster, they have dispatched approx. 550 Emergency Response/Triage/other relief units to date, distributed 125,000 blankets, 26,000 emergency kits, etc. While I am not the right person to determine whether or not the amount of the initial relief efforts were sufficient and appropriate, JRC has done something between March 11 and April 15 for sure. 

Incidentally, I'd like you to know that the money to fund their disaster relief efforts come from their general operational budget. And this is where the majority of criticism on JRC are usually targeted in the non-emergency time.

The Japanese Red Cross Society draws their operational funds from general public like tax. You may have your personal experience that your neighborhood association come around once a year to ask - demand? - for a donation to the Red Cross with typical suggested price of 500 yen per household. The money collected from this effort is the one of the two main income sources for their operational fund. Many people complain about the "compulsory" nature of this fund collection method. I do give this money, but do not agree with the method, either.

At the moment, I am fighting my own company's bureaucracy in getting a proper amount of funding for our CSR efforts in Japan. I have been thinking long and hard about what a hotel company like Marriott can do to make a difference in the lives of these poor folks in the Tsunami-stricken region. I think I found an answer, and am trying to organize a big, company-wide project. But unfortunately, we do not have our own hotel in Japan - all are franchised, you see - and, therefore, we do not have our own employees suffering from the disaster. For my company and the Marriott Foundation, it lacks the usual priorities they look for before funding a project. When we faced Hurricanes in New Orleans and/or Cancun where we have many of our own properties, it was much easier to organize a special relief campaign…. But I will continue my efforts. I will tell you what we will be doing once my effort starts to bear some fruits. 


Thank you so very much, Mr. Kosugi. If I am mistaken about Red Cross efforts, I stand corrected. I commend you on your efforts and think it is wonderful that such a fine organization such as Marriot Hotels have decided to make the effort to do something to cooperate in the relief. I applaud your efforts.




If I made it seem that the Japan Red Cross didn't do any efforts, and they in fact did, then I am wrong. Let me though say that I have been provided with information that was taken by a direct telephone call to Japan Red Cross and some background researching that seems to indicate that they hadn't done anything at all. I am not at liberty, at this time, to name the publication that researched this information for me as I am under the impression that they are going to write an expose about Japan Red Cross activities.


Their information came to me like this:
Mike,

Here is some info that our researcher dug up from calling the Japan Red Cross, and more.

XXXXXXX

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: 
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
>
Date: 2011/4/18
Subject: Let me know if you need further info.
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXX
>

According the JRCS’s PR: The delay in sending out genkin donations to disaster affected prefectures (義援金 Genkin - money will be given in cash to survivors) maybe due to the fact that the Donation Allocation Committee came together on Friday April 8 for their first meeting since the earthquake. (Members include JRC, Red Feather/JCC + reps from 15 prefectures)

Also, the earthquake was large-scale, affecting 15 prefectures so it
took (time) to organize the committee.

First money transfer:
On April 12(Tues) JRCS was requested by the allocation committee of
Fukushima, Tochigi and Nagano prefectures and was then transferred to each prefecture's allocation committee on the 13th:
 
Fukushima received Y23 bn (Y23,006,000,000)
Tochigi                   Y252m (Y     252,150,000)
Nagano                  Y  19m (Y       19,500,000)

2nd:
Miyagi (Y15,611,680,000)
Niigata (Y      16,710,000)
Saitama(Y     10,320,000)

I also found a blog site that gives us more insight on this issue - in English.


http://sarajeans-notes.blogspot.com/2011/04/basic-info-on-gienkin-donations-in.html
Excerpt:

"At 4 weeks nothing has been sent yet - a few main issues
1. Systematic problems - how to verify?
Evacuees often have no ID or proof where they are from, who they are.
City halls have also been destroyed, staff killed - no records to check in many cases in some evacuation centers.

2. Scale issues - this time 15 prefectures have been affected
Some evacuees are housed far from home, no local government
representative to help them
* Kobe EQ damage was concentrated in and around Hyogo prefectur


So there seems to be some discrepancy between the two stories. Nevertheless, if the Japan Red Cross has done something, I stand corrected thank to Mr. Hiro Kosugi. But, even comparing both sets of information, it seems true that Japan Red Cross has still not gotten any cash directly into the hands of the survivors at this time.



I sent Mr. Kosugi a copy of the mail I had received from the magazine. That mail thanked him and added:


I think this is a wonderful discussion to bring to the public attention. It not only makes people more aware of the hurdles, it might also motivate the government and Red Cross to reform their system to be quicker. Who knows? Anyway discussion is always a good thing.

Perhaps after bringing this to light and then back and forth discussions, something good will come of it.

We'll see.

I am so happy to get this type of well-written and logical rebuttal. I am also quite happy to admit I am wrong when the occasion arises. My only recourse at this moment is to apologize as I suspect that the Japan Red Cross did deliver some blankets and a minor number of goods - so I cannot insinuate that they did absolutely nothing.


I think, though, I still should stand by my final comment that I made in the blog post in question and that is, "There has got to be a better way." 


Let's hope this public discussion will help services such as the government and relief agencies to rethink their methods and to streamline their systems so that those in need do not have to wait even one second longer than is necessary.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

From another Mike ...

Mike, I think somewhere between the two reports you have received lies the truth. No doubt I expect it was the local chapters of Japan Red Cross immediately sprung into action ie. those who realised that multiple committee-meetings; making sure all egos were massaged; and other useless and pretentious twat/trivia that usually stymies raid decision-making. Red Cross - for all its global scandals over the decades - comes down to the "front-liners" who are in it for the mission.

Those seeking prestigious appointments (and I expect amakudari rules at JRC too) will be acting to protect their positions and junkets more so than serving their cause.

As for this ongoing slagging of the government - polticians as opposed to bureaucrats - it is unhelpful and no doubt inaccurate. While finding "scapegoats" and laying "blame" is a global phenomenon, it is practiced here as an artform.

Winding back to the days of Koizumi and his privatisation of the postal service (rightly or wrongly), it can be seen that the "bureaucracy" stymied the "elected officials" desires to carry out the task so much so that a national election was called on that platform. My guess is that same obstructionism exists in this case (and s many others here) again. So Kosugi-san's labelling of "mis-management" may be similarly lacking in full-fact assessment as your analysis of JRC actions.

I think Kan's comment last night that "history will judge his efforts" will see an assessment in his favour. The 1995 Kobe quake (and subsequent quakes in Niigata etc) is on record as to the previous governments utter mis-management and neglect of people. Shall we talk about Minamata ? Tainted Blood ? Pensions Schemes ? ... Oh ! ... Wait ! ... Same Team, ne !!!

DPJ fairs only slightly better (as we watch Ozawa really only existing to bring you "Ozawa"). But To say Kan or the current government has "mis-managed" this crisis is an un-informed view. The poor bastards DPJ inherited a 50-year legacy of problems and sweetheart deals, and a litany of lies and corruption. And to peel back each stinky layer of this LDP onion will take almost as long.

Oh, poor Mr Tanigaki ! He had been out of public view for 30+ days, and what is his first request ? "Kan, you should resign." What an absolute NUTTER this guy is. And Mr Ozawa's attack on Kan ? ... the rot continues. These guys continue to hijack the national agenda for their own self-interest.

Unfortunately, our "trust" in any organisation in Japan - no matter in whatever sector - has been more than tainted. It has decayed. And the smell is obnoxious.

"Simulated". That is the only way you can describe the bows and apologies. They truly are an artificial reality here in Japan and have lost all credibility. They are about as real as a date with an anime character. The tsunami of pseudo-apologies really makes me quake. And is their "fallout" has seen the meltdown of public trust a long time ago.

In the case of those suffering in the north-east, they are the ONLY ones I believe just now ... and those like yourself who got off their asses, rolled up their sleeves and WENT to the region.

Last night's news I watched a small class of kids in Sanriku area rejoicing that they received a plain, unbuttered roll and a mini tetrapak of milk ... and not complain, but rejoice about it.

But that is the BEST that the "World's 3rd Biggest Economy" can offer them now 40 days after the crisis ?

JRC, pick up your act !

Anonymous said...

The Red Cross in the USA is a scandalous organization. Only 17 cents on the dollar actually goes to helping anyone. For proof see this: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3277

I'm sure the Japan Red Cross is no better.

Marc Sheffner said...

Yes, thank you, Mr. Kosugi, for taking the trouble to write (in a foreign language) a thoughtful and diplomatic response to Mr. Marketing "shoot-from-the-hip-and-ask-questions-later" Japan!

Mr. Kosugi put his finger on the nub of the problem, I believe:
"The real problems were 1) the time that the federal government took to create the Fund Distribution Committee and 2) the time this committee took to make a decision."

I want to say, "See? There's the problem! Why the heck is the government involved at all? Everything would just go a lot faster if they would get out of the way!"
On the other hand, who is to figure out exactly who should receive the cash disbursement? Who knows who is alive and who is dead? Who knows where the survivors are? Who can distribute the funds with apparent fairness? I'm not sure that local government is the best organization to manage this, but at present that's who has this kind of information. So the JRC has to play ball with the local government. And, like many Japanese, they want to do the job properly, which means they take time and care. The ideal would be a quick and efficient response (yakuza for governors, anyone?)
TANSTAAFL. Slow but steady and organized, or quick and disorganized and leading to chaos and complaints and lawsuits later: that's the choice.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Marketing "shoot-from-the-hip-and-ask-questions-later" Japan!" HEE HAR! HILARIOUS!

Anonymous said...

@Marc Sheffner
+1 On the shooter before the thinker!!

In this Age of Turmoil the old centralized, time consuming, butt kissing and corrupt management styles that Japan and many Socialist brainwashed countries embrace will go the way of the dinosaur. Slow death deserved for the welfare states and those that embrace it. Government can not give anything it does not first take from someone else.

Local control = Less bureaucracy and more efficiency.

Donate to a local charity or religious institution with people on the ground to avoid the red tape.

Anonymous said...

This breathtaking excuse by Mr. Hiro Kosugi should not be construed as permission for JRC to continue its ways but as the reason why it should not be allowed to.

Anonymous said...

Here is the operational update from JRCS itself:
http://www.jrc.or.jp/vcms_lf/JRCS_OperationsUpdate1.pdf

Marc Sheffner said...

No doubt readers have their favourites, but here's my suggestions for alternative charities to JRC to donate to:
Mercy Corps Japan Earthquake
and
Winds of Peace Japan