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2008年5月 1日 (木)


PM must fulfill promise on road tax revenues

暫定税率再可決 一般財源化の約束を果たせ5月1日付・読売社説)

The Yomiuri Shimbun


Gasoline prices were lowered a month ago, but have now been restored to their previous levels. What exactly was all the fuss about?


By way of responding to this question, as well as to concerns raised by the public, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is now obliged to fulfill his pledge to incorporate road-related tax revenues--currently used exclusively for road-related projects--into the general purpose revenue account.


A set of tax code bills, including one to reinstate provisionally high rates of gasoline and other road-related taxes, were enacted Wednesday after a plenary session of the House of Representatives--controlled by the ruling parties--passed them with a second vote by a majority of two-thirds or more of those members present.


With the bills' passage, gasoline will cost more at the pumps.


But had prices remained at the low levels seen last month, a budgetary shortfall of about 2.6 trillion yen would have resulted. Eventually, taxpayers would have had to stick their hands in their pockets to come up with this cash.


The government and the ruling parties saw it as their responsibility to enact the bills via a second vote in line with constitutional provisions.



Contradictions raised


At a press conference, Fukuda said a consultation panel comprising members from ruling parties should be set up to compile a bill, within the year, aimed at funneling all road-related tax revenues into the general account budget.


However, Fukuda's wish to realize this plan from fiscal 2009 contradicts a revision bill that stipulates special measures for revenue sources vis-a-vis road-related projects. This bill allows gasoline tax revenues to be used for road-related projects for the next 10 years.


The prime minister needs to thoroughly explain how road-related taxes would be used as general revenue, as well as seek public understanding over the issue to facilitate the expeditious passage of the bill.


The tax bills were enacted after they were deemed as having been rejected by the House of Councillors. A constitutional provision stipulates that if the upper house fails to take final action within 60 days of receiving a bill passed by the lower house, the lower house can constitute this as a rejection of the bill by the upper house.


The upper house's failure to even vote on the bill during the stipulated period in effect denied its own powers as a legislative organ.


It is our belief that the Democratic Party of Japan, the leading party in the upper house, bears a particularly heavy responsibility.


If the DPJ was serious about abolishing the provisional tax rates, it should have presented more convincing alternative sources of revenue.


If the party merely boasts it has succeeded in lowering gasoline prices, it may lead down the dark alley of political populism, in which political leaders meekly kowtow to the general public.



Censure motion on hold


The DPJ and other opposition parties have decided--for the time being--not to submit to the upper house a censure motion against Fukuda.


If such a motion was presented and passed, it would mean the opposition camp could not hold question-and-answer sessions with the prime minister.


In such a case, the only option left to the opposition camp would be to reject Diet deliberations.


As censure motions are not legally binding, there would be virtually no consequences if the prime minister chose to ignore such a protest.


The opposition parties likely deemed they would be unable to force the Fukuda Cabinet to resign en masse--thus triggering the dissolution of the lower house and a subsequent snap election--even if they persevered with a strategy of rejecting Diet deliberations.


Rather than stubbornly continuing to play hardball, we believe the DPJ should hold talks with the ruling parties to ensure that moves toward funneling road-related tax revenues into the general revenue account would not be stymied.


By doing so, the DPJ would better demonstrate its ability to take the reins of the government.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 1, 2008)

2008510127  読売新聞)

(May. 1, 2008)



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