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2008年5月21日 (水)


05/21/2008 --The Asahi Shimbun, May 20(IHT/Asahi: May 21,2008)

EDITORIAL: Tax-based pensions?


What is the best way to finance basic pension benefits paid to senior citizens? Should they be funded by a combination of premiums collected from people and tax revenue, as they are now? Or should they be covered entirely by state coffers?

Estimates released Monday by a subpanel of the National Commission on Social Security offer insights that will help decide how best to deal with pension funding.


coffer=金庫、財源、基金)(offer insights=考え方、見方を提供する)

What increases in the consumption tax rate would be needed to shift to a system that finances uniform basic pension benefits solely with revenue from the levy?


revenue from the levy=税収)

Draft calculations of the fiscal outlay for pension payouts were made using four different plans. The plans differ on how past insurance premiums would be reflected in future payouts.




Especially notable are estimates of the net increase and decrease in the financial burden on individual households--the difference between the gain from the elimination of premiums and the loss due to the tax hike--for the different cases.


These estimates do a lot to help ordinary taxpayers grasp the implications for their own finances of various arguments concerning tax revenues that involve mind-boggling numbers in the trillions of yen.



The gist of the data is this: The consumption tax rate would have to be raised by 4.5 to 13 percentage points in fiscal 2009, resulting in a net increase in the financial burden on all households of corporate employees regardless of income levels.


gist=要点、骨子)(regardless of income levels=所得水準にかかわらず)

If maximum basic pension benefits are paid to all people who have reached pension age, including those who have paid nothing or less-than-required premiums, under a tax-financing system, the total payouts would grow sharply, demanding a bigger tax hike.


Replacing premiums with tax collections would remove employer contributions to the pension system and shift the burden to households.


These key issues concerning the tax-financing scheme are highlighted by the calculations.


The data offered by the panel should lead to heightened policy debates on how these issues should be addressed and how the current premium-based system should be reformed if it is to be maintained.


The estimates of the tax increase, however, differ widely, depending on details of the program and related assumptions.


Focusing too much on the tax projections would risk diverting debate from the fundamental question of what kind of pension system would be best for everybody.



What is even more important is to discuss pension issues in the broader context of the entire social security system.


As the population ages, the costs of medical and nursing care as well as those of pensions will inevitably keep swelling.



How should the increasing costs be shouldered by the people? Which area of social security should be given priority in distribution of resources?


The mission of the National Commission on Social Security is to lay down various visions and options that help the public consider these questions.


(the National Commission=国民会議)(lay down=計画を練る、基礎を築く)

Debate on these points has barely begun.



Will health and nursing care services and benefits be enhanced at the cost of a greater tax burden? Or is the priority to be placed on curbing the growth of social security spending by limiting benefits?


The basic direction of the social security policy has yet to be defined.


In a February editorial, we argued that health and nursing care should be given priority in budgeting. The panel should discuss this and other key issues more deeply to give the public a clearer idea about the future of welfare and the relations between benefits and burdens.


It is unusual for the government to announce such estimates of possible increases in the tax load based on so many assumptions.


tax load=税負担)

No doubt the government wanted to dampen the political momentum concerning the argument for tax financing of the state pension program.



The government must not be selective about when to release this kind of information.



The situation surrounding the controversial new health care insurance system for people aged 75 or older could have been quite different if the government had kept the debate tethered more firmly to the reality of people's lives.



In the future, the government should be ready to disclose all the relevant numbers and materials for public discussions on important policy issues.


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 20(IHT/Asahi: May 21,2008)

朝日新聞 5月20日号(英語版 2008年5月21日発行)


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