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2008年12月24日 (水)

08回顧・日本 政治も経済も波乱の年越し

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 24, 2008)

2008--a year of instability

08回顧・日本 政治も経済も波乱の年越し(1224日付・読売社説)

The 20th year of the Heisei era is drawing to a close. The growing instability in several fields that symbolized the year 2008 featured prominently in the top 10 domestic news stories selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers.

 平成の世となって20年目が過ぎつつある。様々な分野で不安定さが増した年だった。それを顕著に示す項目が、読者が選んだ本紙の「日本10大ニュース」にも並んだ。

Turmoil in the political world was a topic on many people's lips this year. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's sudden decision to resign and Taro Aso succeeding his post was the second-biggest story chosen by our readers. Fukuda abruptly pulled in his horns and walked away from the administration, saying that the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan was holding up Diet discussions and refusing to negotiate, which delayed decisions on important matters.

 まずは政治である。「福田首相が突然の退陣表明、後継は麻生首相」が2位となった。まさに突然の辞任だった。「民主党が重要案件の対応に応じず、決めるべきことがなかなか決まらない」と弱音を吐いて政権を投げ出し、麻生首相がその後を継いだ。

Shinzo Abe, Fukuda's predecessor, also abruptly resigned as prime minister last year after a crushing defeat in the House of Councillors election. Abe cited health problems as his reason for stepping down. The cabinets of Abe and Fukuda were both short-lived, both staying afloat for about one year.

 前任の安倍首相も参院選の惨敗後、「体調悪化」を理由に突然、退陣している。ともに1年の短命内閣だった。

Fukuda was frustrated by the "split Diet" in which the ruling parties hold a majority in the House of Representatives and opposition parties control the upper house. The provisional gasoline tax rates expired and gas prices began to fall, but the rates were revived after a bill to restore them was passed into law in a revote at the lower house after the upper house voted against it. This story ranked 13th. Public frustration mounted over the snail's pace at which policy decisions were made in this snarled Diet.

 福田前首相は、衆参「ねじれ国会」で対応に苦しんでいた。13位の「ガソリン税暫定税率が失効、値下げ始まるも再可決で復活」に象徴される迷走国会の下、遅々として進まない政策決定に国民の苛(いら)立ちも募った。

The new medical insurance system for people aged 75 and older started this year, but the system, under which premiums are deducted from pension benefits, has come under severe criticism, and ranked sixth overall. A panel investigating the manipulation of corporate pension records concluded in a report that local social insurance offices systematically falsified many records. This story ranked 26th.

 6位に「後期高齢者医療制度スタート、保険料の年金天引きなどに批判」が、26位に「厚生年金記録改ざん、社保事務所『組織的関与』の報告書」が入った。

A barrage of criticism has been leveled at the new insurance system that describes people aged 75 and older as "koki koreisha" (late-stage elderly people). The systematic involvement of the Social Insurance Agency in pension record falsification was just one of a series of scandals that rocked the SIA. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry took the brunt of criticism over several pension and medical problems.

 「後期高齢者」という命名に批判が集中した。社会保険庁の数々の不祥事に、年金記録の組織的な改ざんまで加わった。年金や医療問題で、厚生労働省が矢面に立たされ続けた年でもあった。

===

Food safety woes

 ◆目に余る食品不正◆

The U.S.-triggered financial crisis has battered Japan's economy and turned business conditions on their heads. The eighth-ranked story of 2008 was the plunge of Tokyo stocks to the lowest level since the bubble economy burst. The impact has spread even to the real economy and Japan's signature export industries--auto and electronic manufacturers--are falling on tough times. The employment situation is becoming increasingly unstable.

 米国発の金融危機は日本も直撃し、景気の様相が一変した。「東京株、バブル後最安値を記録」が8位である。影響は実体経済にも及び、代表的な輸出産業の自動車や電機が苦境にあえいでいる。雇用不安も増してきた。

Public interest in food safety remains high. Poisoning cases caused by tainted Chinese-made gyoza and a string of troubles stemming from Chinese-made foods was the top-ranked domestic news story.

 やはり、日々口にする食品への関心は高い。1位は「中国製ギョーザで中毒、中国産食品のトラブル相次ぐ」である。

With consumers already on edge over food safety, it was discovered that rice tainted with pesticide residue or mold that the government sold to dealers was resold for human consumption. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Seiichi Ota resigned to take responsibility for the debacle, which was ranked 11th. The story in 18th spot was a stream of misleading labeling of products' origins, including the labeling of grilled eels from China as being from Japan.

 さらに「『事故米』の食用転売判明、太田農相ら引責辞任」が11位、「中国産ウナギなどで産地偽装相次ぐ」が18位だった。

The gyoza case whipped up consumer distrust of Chinese-made foods. China eventually retracted its initial claim that the dumplings were contaminated with a toxic substance in Japan, not in China. However, China has yet to provide Japan with details of how the investigation there was carried out.

 ギョーザ事件は中国産食品への消費者の不信感を高めた。中国側は、毒物の混入元は日本だとしてきた当初の強弁は撤回したが、その後の捜査がどうなったのか、音沙汰(さた)がない。

The rice tainted with pesticide residue or mold was made into sweets or shochu liquor. This news left many people shaking their heads in disbelief. A raft of irregularities involving food in Japan regularly made the headlines. The resignation of the agriculture minister has done little to resolve these problems.

 農薬汚染の事故米が菓子や焼酎に姿を変えていた。これも耳を疑う事件だった。国内でも食品不正の横行ぶりは目に余る。農相辞任でも一件落着とはいかない。

===

Shocking crimes

 ◆多発した異常な犯罪◆

The year 2008 saw several heinous crimes that hinted at a worrying increase in social instability.

 社会の不安定さを印象づけるような凶悪犯罪も多発した。

Particularly disturbing were random street murder cases committed on a selfish whim by culprits bent on killing whoever happened to be nearby. The fifth-ranked story of 2008 was the indiscriminate stabbing spree by a man in Tokyo's Akihabara district that left seven people dead. In another attack, a man wanted on a separate murder charge killed one person and injured seven in a knife attack at a train station in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture. This story ranked 29th.

 「誰でもいいから人を殺したかった」という身勝手な理由で、通行人らを襲う通り魔事件が相次いだ。「東京・秋葉原で無差別7人殺害」が5位、「殺人事件で手配の男が8人殺傷、茨城・土浦のJR駅で」が29位に入った。

The seventh-ranked story was the shocking knife attacks at the homes of two former administrative vice health and welfare ministers that left two people dead and one seriously injured. An unemployed man later turned himself in and reportedly told police he committed the attacks to avenge the putting down of his pet dog at a public health center 34 years ago. However, many people found this explanation to be dubious, to say the least.

 7位になった「元厚生次官宅襲撃事件で3人死傷、出頭の無職男を逮捕」も常軌を逸している。男の「34年前に保健所で処分された犬の敵を討ちたかった」という供述はどこまで信用できるのか。

Natural disasters also featured prominently among this year's stories. Ranking ninth was the Iwate-Miyagi Inland Earthquake, which killed 13 people and measured upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7. Five people, including primary school children, were killed when they were washed away by a Kobe river swollen by sudden torrential rain. This story ranked 17th.

 今年も自然の災害を免れ得なかった。「岩手・宮城で震度6強、13人死亡」が9位、「『ゲリラ豪雨』の河川増水で小学生ら5人死亡、被害相次ぐ」が17位だ。

Devastating earthquakes and torrential rains can occur anywhere at any time. It is important to always be prepared for such an emergency.

 大地震もゲリラ豪雨も、どこで起きるか予測できない。平時からの備えが大切だ。

===

Moments to savor

Amid all this doom and gloom, the top 10 domestic news stories also included stories that brought smiles to our faces.

 もちろん、暗い話題ばかりではない。

Coming in fourth place was Japan's haul of nine gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games and breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima becoming the first swimmer in history to successfully defend Olympic titles in both the 100- and 200-meter events.

「北京五輪で日本は『金』9個、競泳・北島選手ら連覇」が4位に入った。

Kitajima, who made the memorable comment, "I feel incredible!" after winning gold in Athens, left another notable quote after winning in Beijing when he said, "I can't say anything more."

 平泳ぎの北島康介選手は、アテネ五輪での2冠に続く2種目連覇を果たした。アテネでの「チョー気持ちいい」に続き、「何も言えねえ」の“名言”を残した。

Many Japanese people were glued to the TV as they cheered on the Japanese athletes.

日本人選手の活躍を願いつつ、多くの人がテレビの前に釘(くぎ)付けになった。

The women's softball team won the nation's first Olympic gold medal in the sport with a tremendous performance that piqued the interest of many people. The athletes must have made every effort in their quests to accomplish such impressive feats.

 初の金メダルを獲得したソフトボールの女子選手たちの熱闘ぶりも、大きな感動を呼んだ。それぞれの快挙の裏には、大変な努力や工夫があったのだろう。

The third-ranked story of Japan's Nobel Prize winners--Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Masukawa, who won the prize in physics, and Osamu Shimomura, who was awarded the chemistry prize--was welcome news that pushed aside the economic gloom for a moment.

 3位の「ノーベル物理学賞に南部、小林、益川氏、化学賞には下村氏」は、閉塞(へいそく)感を一掃するような明るいニュースだった。

 ◆視線を遠くに据えて◆

As this year nears its end, many people are feeling unsettled and anxious. In politics, the future of the Aso Cabinet and the timing of a general election are being closely watched by the public. It also remains unclear when the economy will recover.

 今年は年の瀬になっても、一段落という感じになれない人が多いのではないか。政界では麻生内閣の行方や総選挙の時期に関心が集まっている。景気の回復はいつになるのだろうか。

The news of the Group of Eight summit meeting talks in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, that set a long-term target to halve greenhouse gas emissions ranked 10th. However, challenges lie ahead in achieving this goal because key countries hold different views on the issue.

 10位に「洞爺湖サミット、温室効果ガス排出量半減の長期目標」が入ったが、これも各国の思惑が錯綜(さくそう)して、前途は多難だ。

Nobel laureate Masukawa said he won the prize for work he did 30 years ago. He then asked people whether scholars are conducting studies that could lead to prominent awards in the future.

 物理学賞の益川敏英さんは、受賞したのは「30年前の仕事」だと語った。そして現在、将来の受賞につながるような学問研究がなされているか、と問いかけた。

Dealing with immediate issues is important. But at the same time, looking ahead and taking appropriate steps is essential, particularly at a time when uncertainty and chaos is gripping the nation.

 目先の対応も重要である。同時に、不安定感が募る混迷の時代だからこそ、視線を遠くに向けて、確かな歩みを続けていくことも大切なのかもしれない。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2008)

200812240134  読売新聞)

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