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2008年12月27日 (土)

社説:09年度予算案 これでは生活防衛できない

(Mainichi Japan) December 26, 2008

Budget draft lacks concrete measures to protect people's livelihoods

社説:09年度予算案 これでは生活防衛できない

The government approved a state budget draft for fiscal 2009 on Wednesday. At a news conference following the decision, Prime Minister Taro Aso praised the budget as a bold measure to protect people's livelihoods. The prime minister apparently wanted to emphasize that social security outlays, which include 77.5 billion yen from the 333 billion yen in funds for priority policy measures that he allocated at his own discretion, will increase by 14 percent and that he also places priority on regional vitalization measures and support for smaller businesses.


However, one cannot help but wonder whether the budget will provide relief for people plagued by a chain of concerns.


The government's compilation of the fiscal 2009 budget draft was affected by international economic conditions and political maneuvering. Amid the rapid economic slowdown, numerous emergency issues have emerged.


The government has decided to carry out 75 trillion yen worth of projects in three economic stimulus packages and also has plans for 12 trillion yen in fiscal measures.


The stimulus packages appear to be on par with those in other major countries in terms of their scale and ratio to gross domestic product, but the public does not appear to expect them to produce far-reaching results.


Moreover, the government is basically going to rely on loans to finance these measures in the face of a large tax revenue shortfall.


The budget draft calls for the issuance of deficit-covering bonds totaling 25.71 trillion yen, up 5.6 trillion yen from the initial budget of the current fiscal year. Moreover, 4.23 trillion yen will be diverted to part of these projects from reserves in the special account of the government's fiscal investment and loan program, which will require funding from deficit-covering bonds in the future.


If the budget can reassure people and improve economic conditions, it will lead to an increase in tax revenue and help the country erase its chronic deficit. How 1 trillion yen set aside in the fiscal 2009 budget draft for emergency economic measures will be used remains to be seen. However, the allocations of funds for medical, nursing care and employment security projects are insufficient. The budget does not show how Japan can transform its economic structure to stimulate its economy and expand job opportunities.


If the government really thinks Japan is facing an economic crisis that occurs once every 100 years, it should have drastically reviewed the budget appropriations. Financial resources exclusively set aside for road construction will be incorporated in the general budget as the government has pledged. Nevertheless, road construction and maintenance spending will be cut by only 8.8 percent.



The government will increase its contribution to the basic pension fund, but it has not secured stable sources of funding to carry this out.


The government has also not sufficiently reduced its waste of taxpayers' money or restructured its outlays. Instead of efficiently allocating funds to various projects, it has pondered over how to provide enough funds for a wide variety of projects by expanding the scale of the budget.


The goal of the fiscal 2009 budget draft is to protect people's livelihoods and Japan's economy. However, it does not appear that the government will achieve this goal.


Ruling coalition politicians are trying to avoid mentioning a consumption tax hike and other sensitive issues that would require taxpayers to shoulder a heavier financial burden as part of a mid-term program to achieve a sustainable social security system. The tendency of politicians to avoid difficult topics and attempt to cover up the need for a tax hike has become evident.


To ensure sustainable economic growth, it is urgent that Japan's fiscal capability, which has been considerably weakened, be rebuilt. Both the ruling coalition and opposition parties must recognize the importance of this task and offer specific measures to achieve it.


毎日新聞 20081225日 017


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