I have dealt with travel and research reimbursements from the United States a number of times to some inconvenience, but little trouble. Despite a love of protocols, Americans, do, in the end, want to make things work. If for nothing else, an ease of procedure reduces the work load for office workers so that they can get back to Farmville.
Japan, if my current experience is any indication, is a complete bureaucratic nightmare. They seem to have never heard of a developing country, have little awareness of international currency exchange and are more intent on exercising the micromanaging authority of overfed office workers than trying to streamline processes and facilitate research and development.
Reimbursements take several months, and I get nailed with taxes on the way out, despite technically being exempt. Frustrating, but not frustrating enough to make me never want to work with them again. I can see how people could get discouraged, however.
A reimbursement from a Swedish institution, however, contacted me with the following:
“I sent the form to our economy department today. If you not hear from me again, you will receive your money within a few days.”
How easy is that?!
The World Bank keeps data on the relative ease of doing business in several countries around the globe. Overall, the US ranks 4th, Sweden 14 and Japan 20th.
For obtaining a construction permit however, the US is 17, Sweden 23, and Japan, a weak 63. If you want to start a business, stick with the US, it ranks 13th, Sweden 46th and Japan, an embarrassing 107! It’s easier to start a business in Ghana.
Granted, many of the current discussions of decentralization in Japan are directly related to this problem, but, in the meantime, I am astonished that it has taken this long.