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2008年10月 7日 (火)


(Oct. 7, 2008)The Yomiuri Shimbun
Deepen Diet debate on policy funding
衆院予算委 財源論争をさらに深めよ(10月7日付・読売社説)

With a House of Representatives election said to be around the corner, both the ruling and opposition parties have a responsibility to clarify the political issues at stake through debate in the Diet. In doing so, the most important point is that the sources of funding for their envisaged policy measures should be made clear.

Discussion of the fiscal 2008 supplementary budget proposed by the government started Monday at the lower house Budget Committee. At the committee, Hiroyuki Sonoda, acting chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council, discussed the policy pledges of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the financial resources they have outlined to fund them, critically picking out what he saw as ambiguities.

It is unusual for a member of the ruling coalition party to argue the rights and wrongs of the opposition party's policy pledges during deliberations on the government's budget. Sonoda took this unusual step, apparently believing that the effectiveness of the policy measures proposed by the DPJ should be called into question if the leading opposition party has the potential to take office after the next lower house election.


Where is DPJ's 20.5 trillion yen?

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa has announced policy pledges including the provision of subsidies to guarantee a certain level of income for farming households and the creation of a system to guarantee minimum pension payments.

Ozawa insists that net expenditure of the general and special accounts, which totals 212 trillion yen per year, should be drastically restructured to release 20.5 trillion yen to fund his policies.

However, Sonoda criticized this assertion at the Budget Committee, arguing that it would be difficult to cut the net expenditure of the accounts because more than 80 percent of these funds have already been earmarked for various purposes such as the redemption of national bonds, social security payments and loans for local governments.

He claimed that Ozawa's policy measures were largely contradictory since the securing of the 20.5 trillion yen would require the slashing of expenditure on public works and education totaling 30 trillion yen.

Sonoda also criticized Ozawa's idea to tap into surplus funds held in special accounts--so-called buried treasure--to implement policy measures, saying that such surplus funds can never constitute a sustainable source of funds because they can only be spent once.


DPJ slams wasteful spending

Following on from these comments, Akira Nagatsuma, deputy chairman of the DPJ Policy Research Committee, disagreed with Sonoda, stressing that government spending included a huge amount of tax money that was wasted by bureaucrats in such forms as subsidies with strings attached and unnecessary spending using the special account.

Nevertheless, it remains questionable whether administrative and fiscal reform alone can really generate the huge sum of 20.5 trillion yen while at the same time maintaining the functioning of national and local administrations.

As many local governments are suffering from financial difficulties, there is also concern that the DPJ's plan to reduce additional public works directly controlled by the central government could be detrimental to the development and maintenance of infrastructure in rural areas.

In the face of these questions raised by the ruling coalition, the DPJ must provide more detailed explanations.

Both the ruling and opposition parties have a responsibility to clarify the source of funds that will be used to raise government funding of the basic pension to 50 percent in the next fiscal year and to support a flat-rate tax cut included in the emergency economic package.

Such problems found in the policy pledges of the ruling and opposition parties will be major issues during the campaign for the next lower house election. We would like lawmakers to deepen discussion of these problems at the Budget Committee.

The holding of a one-on-one debate at the committee between Prime Minister Taro Aso and the DPJ president would also be of great value.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 7, 2008)
(2008年10月7日02時02分  読売新聞)


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