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2008年9月16日 (火)


(Sep. 15, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

LDP candidates must justify voters' burdens

敬老の日 総裁候補は負担を率直に説け(915日付・読売社説)

Respect-for-the-Aged Day falls on Monday, amid the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election campaign.


This is a fitting occasion for us to take a good look at which of the five candidates in the election is best suited to become leader of the LDP and the next prime minister. We should closely examine how each of the candidates would handle the pension, medical and nursing care systems that support the lives of elderly people. We also should study how each candidate intends to secure the fiscal resources to maintain these systems.


The speed at which society is graying accelerates year after year.


In 1966, when Respect-for-the-Aged Day became a national holiday, the average life span of Japanese males was 68.35 and that for females 73.61. Currently, men live an average 79.19 years and women 85.99 years. Average life spans are bound to continue to rise. Of course, this is a cause for celebration.



Awkward debate skirted

But the problem is whether we can live our sunset years happily.


To create a society in which old people can live without anxiety, a stable social security system is indispensable.


The five LDP presidential candidates call for improvements in the social security system in their policy pledges. But this is clearly not a main theme of their debates since they have failed to propose concrete arguments concerning social security reform.


Why are they yet to hold substantive discussions on the best way to reform the pension system? The issue of whether the system should be financed by tax revenues alone or whether it should be a social insurance-type system is, after all, a focus of attention across society.


Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba says the current social insurance-type system should be modified by bolstering the guaranteed minimum pension amount. But his proposal is short on detail.


LDP Secretary General Taro Aso has stopped calling for the consumption tax rate to be increased by five percentage points and the basic pension transformed into a purely tax-financed system. Other candidates stopped short of advancing drastic policies, merely saying they would seek to develop a suprapartisan consensus on the pension issue.



Only one option on the table

Discussing reform of the pension system reform concretely is directly connected to debates over the consumption tax rate. But all the candidates seem hesitant to acknowledge a link between the issues.


At present those aged 65 and older account for more than 20 percent of the population. By 2020, the rate will have reached nearly 30 percent.


Under the current system, which depends largely on the working generation shouldering the burden to maintain it, it is clear that the social security system cannot be maintained.


The only remaining option is to fund social security through the consumption tax, with all generations sharing a burden that is spread widely and thinly.


In the LDP presidential election, however, most of the candidates have not progressed much further from arguments such as "Current economic conditions don't allow for an increase in the consumption tax rate" or "First, we have to think about reining in wasteful government spending."


Even if the candidates do get down to discussing raising the consumption tax immediately, it will take at least one or two years before it is hiked, including a period for advertising the raise so the public is well informed of the change.


The consumption tax debate should continue at the same time as the government seeks ways to get the economy back on track.


Realizing a society in which people can live long lives without anxiety means increasing the burden assumed to maintain the social security system. We wonder if that point will be discussed honestly and in detail.


We would like to see how the candidates discuss this matter in the latter half of the LDP presidential campaign.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2008)

20089150146  読売新聞)


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