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2008年12月12日 (金)

福祉の財源―先送りはもう許されぬ

2008/12/12

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 11(IHT/Asahi: December 12,2008)

EDITORIAL: Social security costs

福祉の財源―先送りはもう許されぬ

The government finally decided to raise the ratio of state financing of the basic portion of pension benefits to one-half in April from the current one-third.

 基礎年金の国庫負担割合を、予定通り来年4月から2分の1へ引き上げることがようやく決まった。 

But a key issue remains unsolved: how to ensure stable, long-term funding for the measure. This is a far tougher problem facing the government.

 だが、懸案はまだ半分も解決していない。裏付けとなる「安定財源」がまったく示されていないからだ。こちらの方がはるかに難問だ。 

The expansion of state financing of basic pension payouts requires 2.3 trillion to 2.5 trillion yen annually. For next fiscal year, the government and the ruling coalition plan to raise the money by tapping the reserve fund surplus, or maizo-kin (buried money), in the special budget account for the government's fiscal investment and loan program.

 引き上げに必要な年間2.3兆~2.5兆円の資金を、政府・与党は来年度、財政投融資特別会計のいわゆる「埋蔵金」からひねり出すとしている。

But dipping into the reserve will effectively mean issuing additional government bonds because the surplus is supposed to be used for redeeming previously issued bonds. It will be at best a temporary fix. Where is the funding plan for the second year and beyond?

これは事実上の国債発行であり、一時しのぎに過ぎない。2年目以降はどうするつもりなのか。 

The public pension program is not the only component of the nation's social security system that poses a serious fiscal challenge for the government. Expenditures for health-care and nursing-care services will continue to grow as the nation's population ages.

 年金だけではない。高齢化が進むのに伴い、医療や介護にかかる費用もこれから膨らんでいく。 

The government's policy of curbing natural growth in social security spending has led to some serious cracks in the system, such as a shortage of doctors and nursing-care workers. Fixing these problems will also require money.

 社会保障費の抑制政策のもとで、医師や介護の担い手の不足といった「ほころび」が深刻になった。これを直すのにも、お金が必要だ。 

The government's National Commission on Social Security has estimated that total social security spending by the central and local governments will balloon to 43.5 trillion to 44.3 trillion yen in fiscal 2015, compared with 27 trillion yen in fiscal 2008.

 政府の社会保障国民会議は、社会保障の支出が国と地方合計で08年度の27兆円から、15年度には43.5兆~44.3兆円へ急増すると試算している。 

The question is how to finance such rapid growth in social security spending. A comprehensive answer to this question is expected in a medium-term tax reform program being compiled at the instructions of Prime Minister Taro Aso. But the outlook for the tax reform blueprint is getting murky.

 これらをどうやってまかなうのか。その全体像を示すのが、麻生首相がとりまとめを指示した税制改革の中期プログラムの役割だ。しかし、こちらの雲行きが、どうも怪しい。 

With a Lower House election looming large, ruling camp lawmakers are becoming increasingly unwilling to talk about any tax hike, even a future one.

 次の総選挙を意識して、与党内では、たとえ将来のことでも増税を打ち出すのはできるだけ避けたい、という空気が強まっている。

Kaoru Yosano, the economic and fiscal policy minister, is in charge of the work to draw up the blueprint for midterm tax reform. He has argued for a hike in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in the mid-2010s from the current 5 percent. But it now seems politically difficult to ensure that the program will contain a specific numeral target for raising the consumption tax rate.

まとめ役の与謝野経済財政相は「10年代半ばに消費税率を10%に」が持論だが、税率を盛り込むのは難しい情勢だ。 

As for the question of when the levy should be increased, Aso initially proposed a hike in three years. But the political relevance of his proposal is now in question because his support within the ruling camp has wilted.

 引き上げ時期についても、首相は「3年後に消費税の引き上げをお願いしたい」と明言していたが、求心力の低下は目を覆うばかりだ。 

We can understand the difficulty of mapping out the future for the nation's tax system at a time when the world is lurching toward a synchronized recession. But using the darkening economic outlook as an excuse to shelve the crucial issue of how to finance growing social security spending would only deepen public anxiety about the future.

 もちろん、世界不況の足どりが速まるなかで、先行きを見通しにくいのはわかる。が、それを口実に財源問題を棚上げしたのでは、国民の不安はさらに高まる。財源の裏付けがなければ、やがて社会保障の中身を削られてしまうと恐れるのは当然だ。 

The administrations of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his successors have repeatedly promised a fundamental reform of the tax system. But the government has consistently postponed tackling this policy challenge in the face of opposition from ruling coalition lawmakers who fear they will lose their Diet seats if they approve a tax hike.

 小泉政権以来、「税制の抜本改革」を何度も約束しながら、いつも先送りしてきた。増税すると選挙で落ちる、と与党議員が反対するからだ。

The economic situation may require a delay in a tax hike plan. But such a possibility should not give the government an excuse to sidetrack the job of crafting a plan for an inevitable tax increase. The ruling camp's consistent attempt to avoid confronting the reality of the growing social security burden is the problem.

 目標を定めても、その時の経済状況しだいでは先送りする必要が生じるかもしれない。だがそれは、いま目標づくりを避けて通ってもいいということではない。負担増から逃げ続ける、その姿勢にこそ問題がある。 

If Aso claims he is willing to confront this reality, he should come up with a convincing proposal for the issue. And he should formalize the proposal with an official Cabinet endorsement and submit a bill to carry out his plans to the Diet.

 「私は逃げない」と麻生首相は言うなら、説得力のある目標を掲げて見せたらどうか。さらにそれを閣議決定し法案として国会へ出すことだ。 

The situation offers a great opportunity for opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) to present its own vision for the future of the nation's social security system. Voters are longing to see a healthy competition among the parties to offer a reassuring plan for a solid social safety net.

 民主党にとっても、社会保障の将来ビジョンを示すいい機会ではないか。安心の設計図を政党が示し競い合うことを、国民は求めているはずだ。

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