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2008年12月16日 (火)

景気対策と税―ただの放漫財政では困る

2008/12/16

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 13(IHT/Asahi: December 16,2008)

EDITORIAL: Can Aso maintain fiscal discipline?

景気対策と税―ただの放漫財政では困る

Prime Minister Taro Aso on Friday announced a 23-trillion-yen economic stimulus package titled "emergency measures for protecting livelihoods." At the same time, he clearly stated the possibility of raising the consumption tax rate in three years and stressed his intent to achieve a balance between overcoming the financial crisis and maintaining fiscal discipline.

 麻生首相が「生活防衛のための緊急対策」と銘打った23兆円規模の政策を発表した。同時に、3年後の消費増税の可能性を明言し、危機克服と財政規律の両立を図る姿勢を強調した。 

This double-pronged approach is a correct one. However, seeing how the prime minister has meandered on tax and fiscal policies, we are deeply concerned about whether he can really function as the command center for such an approach.

 この二刀流の取り組み方は正しい。しかし、これまでの税や財政をめぐる迷走ぶりを見ると、首相が果たして二刀を操る司令塔として機能できるのか、深刻な懸念を抱かざるを得ない。 

The basic economic and fiscal policy guidelines of 2006, which set forth the framework of the government's fiscal administration, stipulate the natural increase in the ever-growing social security spending should be curbed by 220 billion yen each year.

 政府の財政運営の大枠を定めた06年の骨太方針では、増え続ける社会保障予算について、毎年2200億円ずつ伸びを抑制することになっている。

However, those actually working in welfare say this policy is tantamount to throwing away those in need of welfare. The prime minister himself had indicated his intention to review this policy.

しかし、福祉の現場からは「これでは切り捨てだ」と悲鳴が上がり、首相自身が方針見直しの考えを示していた。 

To relax the curb on spending, it is necessary to find another source of revenue. That is why Aso set his sights on raising taxes on tobacco by about 60 yen a pack.

 抑制を緩めるなら、その分の財源を見つけてこなければならない。そこで首相が目を付けたのが、1箱60円程度のたばこ税の増税だった。 

This caused a furor of resistance within the ruling coalition. Opponents argued that there were no guarantees the tax hike would increase revenue because the higher costs could further diminish an already declining demand for tobacco.

 これに与党内から猛反発が起きた。増税はたばこ離れに拍車をかけ、目算通り税収があがるかどうか保証がない。

In addition, the higher taxes would affect tobacco plant farmers. The opponents argued they could not accept anything like that before a Lower House election.

葉タバコ農家などにしわ寄せが及ぶ。総選挙を控え、とても認められない。そんな理屈だ。 

Contrary to the prime minister's wishes, the ruling parties' tax system research commissions decided to postpone the idea of a higher tobacco tax. Now, there are no other options on the table for a new tax revenue source that can ease the pressure on tightening the social security budget.

 首相の期待ははずれ、与党の税制調査会はたばこ増税の見送りを決めた。社会保障費抑制を緩めるための財源探しは、まったくめどが立っていない。 

More confusion erupted concerning the midterm program for tax reform, including an increase in the consumption tax rate to secure a stable revenue source for future social welfare programs.

 さらに混迷したのは、将来の社会福祉の安定財源をどう確保するか、消費増税を含めて税制改革の中期プログラムを明らかにするという問題だ。 

The prime minister instructed Kaoru Yosano, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, to clearly state in the midterm program that the consumption tax rate would increase "three years from now." But on the same day, the ruling coalition's tax panels decided not to include the timing of the tax increase in their tax reform outlines.

 首相は、与謝野経済財政相に消費増税の時期を「3年後」と明記するよう指示したのに、その日のうちに与党税調は税制改正大綱に時期を盛り込まないことを決めた。

Vague wording was used instead because the Liberal Democratic Party's coalition partner, New Komeito, furiously resisted a specific schedule. There is no denying that lawmakers' knee-jerk reaction against mentioning tax hikes before an election came into play here.

連立相手の公明党が強く抵抗したためだが、やはり選挙を意識して増税には触れたくないという議員心理が働いたのは否めない。 

During his news conference, Aso again referred to his intention to raise the consumption tax rate in three years and expressed an eagerness to persuade the ruling parties to go along with his plan. But it is highly doubtful Aso can win over the parties with his depleted support within the ruling coalition.

 首相は記者会見で、改めて「3年後」に言及した。与党を説得して何とか残したいとの意欲を見せたが、衰えた求心力でそれが可能か疑問だ。 

Given the situation, how far can Aso go in maintaining fiscal discipline during the process of compiling the budget plan for fiscal 2009 and the second supplementary budget bill?

 こんな状態で、今後の09年度予算案や第2次補正予算案づくりを通じて、どこまで財政規律という筋を通すことができるのだろうか。 

Aso will certainly face increased pressure to use the maizokin surplus reserves in special accounts and issue more government bonds for social security costs. Once the threshold of self-restraint is crossed, all sorts of budget requests for pork-barrel programs for road construction and revitalizing local communities will burst forth.

 社会保障の財源手当ては、埋蔵金や国債をあてようという議論が高まるだろう。タガがはずれれば、道路や地方支援に名を借りたバラマキへの要求が堰(せき)を切ったように押し寄せる。 

The writing is already on the wall. Old-fashioned public works programs may well wriggle into the emergency stimulus package, which sets aside 1 trillion yen each in additional tax allocations to local governments and new funds reserved for economic emergencies.

 すでに前兆はある。緊急対策に盛り込まれた地方交付税増額と新設の経済緊急予備費の各1兆円などに旧来型の公共事業費が潜り込んできそうだ。 

Measures must be taken to prop up the economy and enhance employment security. But if those measures are used as an excuse for repeated pork-barreling with an eye on the next election, then it will be nothing more than an undisciplined, lax fiscal policy.

 不景気や雇用への手当ては必要だ。だが、それを口実に、選挙への思惑を絡めてあれもこれもと盛り込めば、それこそ放漫財政そのものではないか。 

The public can never rest assured if politicians continue to carelessly increase this nation's fiscal deficit.

 漫然と財政赤字を膨らませるだけなら、国民はとても安心できまい。

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