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2008年11月 4日 (火)

究極のばらまき

(Mainichi Japan) November 3, 2008

Economic stimulus package throws money around to delay Diet dissolution

社説:追加経済対策 これは究極のばらまきだ

The government unveiled a new economic stimulus package on Thursday whose main objective is to hasten a recovery from an economic crisis that could require three years to cure completely. Prime Minister Taro Aso also declared that he would raise the consumption tax after the economy rebounds and submit the new stimulus package to the Diet before the end of the year. There is no doubt that package goes a lot further than any previous package. He has added vim to the economic measures while boasting that he will not be throwing money around.

 政府は30日、追加経済対策を決定した。全治3年の経済危機からの回復が最大の目的だ。また、麻生太郎首相は景気回復後、消費税増税の実施を明言した。そのプログラムを年内に提示することも明らかにした。この点では、従来になく踏み込んだことは間違いない。施策にはメリハリを付け、ばらまきではないとも自賛した。

But is this really true? Contrary to his rhetoric, this package is an extreme example of handing out cash.

 本当にそうなのか。言葉とは裏腹に、「究極のばらまき」である。

Payments to households, tax breaks on home loans, and further reductions in highway tolls will swell the size of the total package to around 20 trillion yen, including fiscal spending of around 5 trillion yen.

 家計への給付や住宅ローン減税、高速道路通行料金のさらなる引き下げなどで、事業規模は20兆円まで膨らませた。国の財政支出は約5兆円である。

At the end of August, the government and ruling coalition wove a fixed-sum tax cut into the emergency economic package. Why did they choose this moment to switch to a plan to make payments to all households totaling 2 trillion yen without establishing income ceilings? The package is touted as simple and quickly implementable, but these stated reasons were probably merely for public consumption.

 政府・与党は8月末段階の緊急経済対策で定額減税を盛り込んだ。今回、所得制限を設けず、全世帯対象の総額2兆円規模の給付金に変更したのはなぜか。仕組みが簡素で、早期実施が可能だからというが、表向きの理由だろう。

Instead of a tax cut, which will be harder to associate with the ruling coalition, cash payments and the distribution of coupons are better ways to make citizens aware of their accomplishments. But such methods will inevitably be seen as ways to buy votes heading into the general election and the elections for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

 与党の顔が見えにくい減税より、現金給付やクーポン券配布の方が、実績を印象付けやすい。総選挙や来年夏の東京都議選に向け「票をカネで買う」手法とみられてもやむを得ない。

If the government claims to have adopted a medium- to long-term perspective, it needs to consider drastic policies to promote consumption including measures to enhance the redistribution function of income and other taxes. The hike in the consumption tax could then be positioned as part of overall plan to promote consumption.

 中長期も見据えているというのであれば、抜本的な個人消費振興策として所得税を含む税の再配分機能を高める施策を検討する必要がある。その中で、消費税率の引き上げも位置付けることができる。

By including the largest ever tax break for home loans, it is apparent that the administration wants to demonstrate that it remains ardently committed to housing policy. However, the tax break for home loans has tended to vary at particular points in time, and consequently has given rise to unfairness. The proposed measures will exacerbate the sense of unfairness and inequality. The government needs to consider an approach that will not promote unfairness and also look out for those who have acquired their homes with their own assets.

 過去最大額の住宅ローン減税にも、住宅政策に熱心な政権の姿勢を示したいという思惑が見える。ただ、住宅ローン減税はその時々で制度が異なっている。結果的に不公平が生じている。今回の措置は、その不公平感、不平等感を増幅する。自己資金での住宅取得者も含め、不公平の生じない制度を検討すべきだ。

There are also problems with the proposal to further lower highway tolls, which had already been reduced in the August stimulus package. During the interim, the price of oil fell to 60 dollars a barrel, and the window for adopting countermeasures to soaring oil prices may have passed, with the exception of support for those industries which are severely affected by price rises. If the government wishes to talk about injecting vim into the economy, it should have reconsidered this proposal.

 8月末の対策に盛り込まれ、既に実施されている高速道路料金の再引き下げ措置にも問題が残る。この間、原油価格が1バレル=60ドル台まで軟化しており、原油価格高騰対策は影響の甚大な業種への経営支援などを除けばピークは過ぎている。メリハリというのならば、再検討が必要だったはずだ。

The government and ruling coalition have said that they will implement this package without resorting to additional deficit-covering bonds. However, the main source of revenue for the package will be the reserves in the special account of the government loan and investment program, which are used to redeem national bonds. At a time when a huge drop in tax revenues is considered a certainty, it is inevitable that deficit-covering bonds will have to be issued to cover the shortfall.

 政府・与党はこうした施策を赤字国債の増発に頼らず実施するという。しかし、主たる財源とされる財政投融資特別会計の準備金は、国債の償還や消却の原資だ。税収が当初見込みを大幅に下回ることが確実な現状では、その補てんの赤字国債増発は避けられない。

In the interest of spurring growth, it may be permissible to allow fiscal conditions to temporarily deteriorate. However, at such times, the measures that are adopted need to make the people confident that the economy will recover. Measures whose results are not transparent will only contribute to a ballooning deficit.

 景気対策で財政が一時的に悪化することはある。ただ、その時には、国民が景気回復を確信できるような施策でなければならない。効果の不透明な対策は赤字膨張を招く。

In addition to the construction of a social insurance safety net that will make citizens feel secure, what Japan needs now are rejuvenated households and small- and medium-sized companies, which are the foundation of the economy. Politically motivated pandering to the masses and cash handouts will not strengthen our economic society.

 今、日本にとって必要なことは、国民が安心できる社会保障制度の構築に加え、経済の土台である家計や中小企業が元気になることだ。政治色の濃い大衆迎合やばらまきでは経済社会は強くならない。

Will this package resolve the political turmoil? Prime Minister Taro Aso appears committed to delaying the election for the House of Representatives, and has received approval from collation partner Komeito to do so. The government and ruling parties are considering moving up the submission of the second supplementary budget bill, which includes the new stimulus package, to the current Diet session, and have begun to talk about extending the term of the extraordinary Diet session beyond Nov. 30.

In order to quickly respond to the global financial crisis, the prime minister should immediately dissolve the Lower House so that an administration which has earned the confidence of the people can take the helm on economic policy.

If the second supplementary budget bill is deliberated during the current Diet session, it is expected that the friction between the ruling and opposition parties will heat up. The prime minister must not arbitrarily put off the dissolution of the Diet. At the same time, the opposition and ruling parties must make an effort to clarify their issues of contention through debate.

The prime minister again emphasized that "policy is more important than the political situation" at his press conference on Oct. 30. One can sense Aso's self-contentment that by stressing the importance of prioritizing economic policy he has managed to brush off talk of early dissolution, which had held sway even within his own camp.

But the new stimulus package, which is so obviously mindful of the looming election, raises suspicions that avoidance of a political vacuum might have been the real impetus behind it.

The Cabinet's sagging approval rating has contributed to the ruling coalition's apprehensions regarding the coming general election. By postponing the election, the ruling coalition is rapidly transforming policies that are supposed to address the financial crisis into election-oriented tactics.

Having postponed the verdict of the voters, the prime minister needs to clearly indicate what he intends to do during this Diet session. Otherwise, he will contradict his stated reason of giving priority to policy. He has a responsibility to at the bare minimum submit the second supplementary budget bill during the current Diet session so that it can be fully deliberated by the ruling and opposition parties.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) needs to reflect on the fact that by giving priority to the dissolution of the Diet it put policy debates on the back burner.

In particular, its decision to allow passage of the amendment to the new anti-terrorism special measures law after only two days of actual deliberation is incomprehensible. Delaying tactics are not acceptable, but the House of Councillors must fully debate the issues including the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. We hope that the DPJ will, in its consultations with the ruling coalition to modify the amendment to the financial functions strengthening law, which will be used to inject capital into financial institutions, lead the way to a constructive conclusion.

Furthermore, it is important that the DPJ proposes economic measures that would constitute a pledge to the people. With the election looming, it is still not clear what the contested issues are between the ruling coalition and the DPJ. There is strong concern that the election for the House of Representatives could degenerate into a competition between the ruling and opposition parties to scatter unlimited amounts of cash. In the debates in the remaining days of the current Diet session, the DPJ will be put to a test to determine whether it is able to clarify its differences with the ruling coalition.

Some members of the ruling and opposition parties believe that the general election may be pushed back beyond next spring. However, with the fate of the second supplementary budget bill hanging in the balance, the prime minister will have to walk a tightrope in managing the government between the end of this Diet session and the convening of the ordinary Diet session early next year.

That is why there are limits to a policy of postponing dissolution of the Diet. The Aso administration is the third to be formed without seeking approval from the electorate, but earning the confidence of the people is indispensible to the implementation of the medium- and long-term policies that the prime minister talked about at his press conference. This is a point that needs to be emphasized once again.

毎日新聞 20081031日 東京朝刊

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