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2008年12月23日 (火)

増税への道筋―社会保障の中身を語れ

2008/12/23

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 22(IHT/Asahi: December 23,2008)

EDITORIAL: Consumption tax hike

増税への道筋―社会保障の中身を語れ

The government is putting the finishing touches on a medium-term tax reform program that should show how it intends to ensure financing for the social security system so that people can feel secure about their future.

 安心できる社会保障制度のために、財源をどのように確保していくのか。その道筋を示す税制改革の「中期プログラム」づくりが大詰めだ。 

One key question is whether the government and ruling camp will specify in the blueprint when the consumption tax will be raised--a step Prime Minister Taro Aso has promised to take in three years.

 焦点の一つが、麻生首相が「3年後」と明言している消費税増税の時期を、政府・与党の方針としてはっきり打ち出すかどうかである。 

Aso has already decided to increase the ratio of state financing of the basic portion of pension benefits to one-half in April from the current one-third, as originally planned. But it is unclear how the government will find the money needed for this measure beyond "bridge funding" for the first two years.

 首相はすでに、基礎年金の国庫負担割合を来年4月から2分の1へ引き上げることを決めたが、財源は2年分の「つなぎ財源」しかめどがついていない。

To preserve confidence in the system, it will be vital to make the timing of the tax hike clear and lay out the path for stable financing.

制度の信頼のためにも、増税の時期を明示して財源確保の道筋を示すことは、譲れない一線だろう。 

Lawmakers have long been putting off serious debate on any major increase in the public tax burden. As a result, tackling the issue of social security funding has been postponed, saddling the government with a huge mountain of debt.

 これまで、政治は負担増の議論から逃げ続けてきた。その結果、社会保障の財源問題が先送りされ、膨大な借金の山ができた。

A Lower House election must be held by autumn next year. Proposing a tax increase at this time would be a radical departure from such dithering.

来年秋までには総選挙がある。この時期に「増税」を打ち出すとは、一大転換である。 

It is far from certain, however, that Aso, whose political power base is very weak, will be able to stick to his position. But we nevertheless welcome his courage and his apparent sense of responsibility.

 政権基盤の極めて弱い麻生首相がそれを貫けるか、なんとも心もとないが、その勇気と責任感は大いに歓迎したい。 

However, debate on the tax hike should also address other key details, such as the scale of the increase and the use of the added revenue.

 ただそれには、増税の時期だけでなく、中身の議論も深めてもらいたい。何のために、どれだけ増税するのか。お金の規模や使い道の内容だ。 

The government's National Commission on Social Security is calling for measures to bolster the functions of the system, which it describes as seriously frayed.

 政府の社会保障国民会議は、社会保障制度にはほころびが生じているとして、「機能強化」を主張している。

Given the increase in social security spending due to the aging of the population, the consumption tax rate will have to be raised by 3.3 to 3.5 percentage points from the current 5 percent by the end of 2015, according to the panel.

高齢化に伴う社会保障費の増加も考えると、消費税率に換算して2015年時点で3.3~3.5%の引き上げが必要としている。 

But some ruling party politicians regard a tax increase as a means to restore health in state finances. They say that much of the 13.8 trillion yen in social security spending, a portion that cannot be covered by consumption tax revenue, has been financed by debt. The government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy stresses the need to end this debt financing. But that would require raising the consumption tax rate by 4.2 percentage points.

 一方、政府与党内には「増税は財政再建のため」という考え方が根強い。今の社会保障費のうち、消費税分を除いた年13.8兆円の多くは借金との見方がある。経済財政諮問会議はこの解消を掲げるが、それには、消費税の4.2%の引き上げが必要だ。 

The ruling camp has yet to make clear whether it will use the fresh revenue from the consumption tax hike to improve fiscal health or bolster social security financing, or both.

 いったい、増税した消費税はどちらに使うつもりなのか、それとも両方なのか。方針がはっきりしないのだ。 

Some government officials are arguing that it would be sufficient for now to set a schedule for the tax hike to be implemented after three years, and that debate on other details can wait.

 政府内には「いまは3年後に増税という方針だけ決めればいい。中身の議論は先のこと」という声もある。

But voters will find it difficult to form an opinion on a tax hike proposal that says nothing specific about how the money will be used, other than it will be spent on social security.

だが、漠然と「社会保障のため」というだけで、使い道のはっきりしない増税をお願いされても、有権者は選挙で判断のしようがないではないか。 

Who would be convinced by a government argument for fiscal rehabilitation when the administration plans to hand out cash to households in a costly giveaway of taxpayer money? There must be many wasteful expenditures that can and should be cut in areas outside social security.

 そもそも定額給付金のようなばらまきをしながら「財政再建を」といわれても、だれが納得できるだろうか。削減できる無駄は、社会保障以外の分野でまだまだあるはずだ。 

The government should tell the public in clear, unequivocal language that the additional consumption tax receipts would be used to expand and enhance the nation's social security system and fund the increase in social security spending.

 まず消費税の増税は、社会保障の充実・強化や、これから増える社会保障費を賄うためのものだ、という考え方をはっきり示すことだ。 

The ruling camp cannot hope to win public support for the tax hike unless it presents a comprehensive vision for reforms while clarifying how they would be financed.

Voters need to know how the proposed tax increase would change public health and nursing-care services as well as the pension program.

増税によって医療・介護のサービスや年金制度はどう変わるのか。改革のメニューと必要な財源の全体像を示さなければ、理解は得られまい。 

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