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2008年12月 5日 (金)

財政路線の転換―危機克服にこそ規律を

2008/12/5 --The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 4(IHT/Asahi: December 5,2008)

EDITORIAL: Opening the fiscal spigot

財政路線の転換―危機克服にこそ規律を

The era of budget austerity is over. The government is abandoning its tight fiscal policy aimed at restoring health in public finances, freeing itself from the strong pressure to cut spending that was felt in the past several years.

 ここ数年、政府の予算づくりに強い節約圧力をかけていた財政再建の重しが、はずされようとしている。 

The move was made very clear in the basic principles approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday to be used in compiling the fiscal 2009 budget.

 きのう、麻生政権が閣議決定した「09年度予算編成の基本方針」には、こんなくだりが盛り込まれている。 

One passage from the document in effect declares an end to budget austerity, stating that amid the dramatic changes in the world's economic and financial conditions, the government must take swift, bold and flexible actions to protect the people's standard of living and the nation's economy.

 「世界の経済金融情勢の変化を受け、国民生活と日本経済を守るべく、状況に応じて果断な対応を機動的かつ弾力的に行う」 

A return to freewheeling spending

■何でもありの懸念 

In plain words, this means the government will forget about belt-tightening and start to increase spending using cash raised by issuing new government bonds. The aim is to lift the sagging economy and create new jobs.

 これを分かりやすく読み解けば、節約路線はひとまず棚上げしたうえで、景気浮揚や雇用対策のために国債を増発し、大規模な財政出動に踏みだそうということである。

This also means that the strict fiscal reform agenda adopted by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that aimed to chip away at the government's towering debt will be put on hold.

膨大な政府債務の縮減になんとかめどをつけようと小泉政権時代に掲げられた財政再建の旗じるしは、下ろされることになる。 

The government and ruling camp are already considering 10 trillion yen in additional public spending over the next three years, a move that is separate from the framework of budget ceilings.

 政府与党では、今後3年間で計10兆円の特別枠を設ける案がすでに浮上している。

Some ruling party lawmakers are even suggesting spending an extra 10 trillion yen annually.

毎年10兆円、という案までささやかれている。 

Economists predict the Japanese economy will sink deeper into recession next year, and public anxiety about the future is growing. This dire situation demands serious policy responses.

 来年に向けて、不景気はさらに深刻になるだろう。国民の先行き不安は深まるばかりだ。それに政治が応えようというのは、しごく当然のことだ。 

But the government's way of dealing with the economic challenge raises concerns that the policy change will lead to another big splurge in public works spending and merely end up ballooning the government's already massive debt--without doing much to shore up the floundering economy.

 だが、その一方で、懸念も膨らむ。公共事業の大盤振る舞いが再現され、景気はあまり改善されないまま借金だけが積み上がって終わるのではないか。

This nation is still haunted by the bitter policy failures that resulted from this very approach about 10 years ago.

ほんの10年ほど前の、苦い経験が頭をよぎるからだ。 

And the view that the Aso administration has jumped haphazardly into this important change in government fiscal policy is also raising concerns.

 財政政策の重大な路線変更なのに、あまりにも行き当たりばったりの印象が抜きがたいせいでもある。 

Takashi Sasagawa, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's General Council, called for large-scale fiscal expansion even before the government's decision on the policy shift. Aso "should change his stance and develop a spending plan that reflects his own policy ideas more clearly in return for our wholehearted support for his Cabinet," he said.

 「麻生内閣を全面的に支持する代わり、チェンジして自分の色が出せるような予算を組むべきだ」。政府より一足先に、大規模財政出動へと路線転換を打ち出した自民党の笹川尭総務会長の発言だ。

Sasagawa's words were in effect a declaration that the ruling party wouldn't help Aso remain in power unless he agreed to switch to a free-spending fiscal expansion policy.

転換をのまねば政権維持には協力できない、と言わんばかりだ。 

This is not the only sign indicating that some within the ruling party are trying to take advantage of Aso's weakening political standing, which is growing from his delay in dissolving the Lower House for a snap election.

 衆院の解散・総選挙を先送りし、弱まる政権の足元を見透かしたような動きは、こればかりではない。 

Aso went along with the fiscal stimulus proposal to hand out 2 trillion yen in cash to households, a move that met with a lot of skepticism about its effectiveness even within the LDP. But Aso accepted the idea because he found it hard to reject the strong demands of the New Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner.

 2兆円もの巨費を投じる定額給付金。経済効果が疑問視され、自民党内にも消極論が少なくなかった。これを首相が受け入れたのは、連立相手の公明党の要求を押し返せなかったためではなかったか。 

The LDP has also manipulated things to its advantage in the issue of mixing tax revenues earmarked for road construction into the general account budget.

Aso previously pledged to provide 1 trillion yen of the earmarked tax receipts to local governments as tax allocation grants to use freely. But his proposal was torpedoed by LDP politicians serving the road construction lobby interests. Now it seems that money will be given away only for public works projects.

 道路特定財源の一般財源化。首相が「地方交付税として(地方が)自由に使える金に1兆円」と明言したのに、道路族議員らの猛反発であっさりひっくり返り、公共事業に使い道を限った「交付金」に化けそうだ。 

The Aso administration has been forced to take policy decisions that do not reflect its own clear will. It has made concessions under strong pressure from the ruling camp and even allowed the ruling coalition to control policymaking.

 押し込まれ、譲歩し、丸投げしといった、およそ政権の明確な意思とは呼べないような政策決定が相次いでいる。そのなかで、今回の路線転換である。

The fiscal policy change occurred just as Aso's political leadership weakened. It is hard not to be cynical about lofty government promises to avoid passing on the burden to future generations and to maintain fiscal discipline.

「安易な将来世代への負担のつけまわしはしない」「財政規律の維持」などと美しい原則を言われても、眉につばをつけざるをえない。


■優先順位を明確に 

Faced with a global recession, clear and careful thinking is in order. Undoubtedly, the recession will strike a heavy blow to the nation's employment situation and to its local economies. The effects will be felt for years to come. It is the government's responsibility to use its power to expand the social safety net and protect the quality of people's lives.

 ここは、しっかり考えたい。この世界的な不況が、日本の雇用や地域経済に大きな打撃を与えるであろうことは間違いない。しかも、その期間はかなり長くなりそうだ。政府は財政の力を使って社会の安全網を確かなものにし、国民生活を守る責任がある。 

On the other hand, the nation's public finances are in a shambles.

The combined long-term debts of the central and local governments are equal to 150 percent of the nation's annual gross domestic product. We're on a treadmill of debt.

 他方、現在の財政は国と地方を合わせた長期債務が国内総生産(GDP)の1.5倍にものぼり、崩壊状態に近い。

The government must not relax its fiscal discipline without first devising effective strategies to prevent a further deterioration of the nation's fiscal health.

これ以上、深刻化させないための知恵と戦略を抜きに、安易に規律を緩めるのは許されない。 

Prudence is of utmost importance. That means singling out the policy areas that are sure to produce payoffs in future and placing a high priority on concentrating fiscal resources in these areas.

 大事なのは、賢さだ。確実に未来に実を結ぶ分野を厳しく選別し、明確な優先順位をつけて財政出動を振り向けることだ。 

Potential candidates for government policy support include, for example, environmental and energy technologies that will become indispensable 10 years or 20 years down the road. The government should also support efforts to develop infrastructures that can meet the needs of the nation's rapidly aging population, and it should ensure that the Tokyo metropolitan area is less vulnerable to strong earthquakes.

 10年後、20年後に必ず必要になるような分野、例えば環境やエネルギー技術へのてこ入れ、あるいは急ピッチに進む少子高齢化社会にふさわしい社会資本整備、東京圏の耐震力強化など、対象はたくさんある。 

The sad truth about past fiscal stimulus packages is that when the fiscal spigot was opened, it created a flood of pork-barrel spending initiated by vote-seeking politicians.

 財政のタガを緩めると、人気取りや票集めの便乗組が登場するのが、これまでの景気対策の悲しい現実だった。

If the new spending drive includes proposals to give away cash or for dubious road and dam projects, Aso's government will find it hard to answer criticism from future generations forced to foot the bill.

定額給付金のようなばらまき色の強い政策や、緊急性の乏しい道路やダム建設などが紛れ込むようでは、借金のつけを回される子や孫の世代の批判にこたえられない。 

Discerning necessary policy measures from frivolous boondoggles requires excellent judgment. To make the right decisions, our political leaders must have a clear and viable vision for the future of Japan's society and economy.

 必要なものとそうでないものを選別するには、卓越した眼力が求められる。それにはこれからの日本の社会や経済のあるべき姿について、政治指導者に明確な構想がなければならない。 

We cannot help but wonder if Aso and his administration are politically strong enough to tackle this tough challenge and lay a solid foundation for building a brighter future for the nation.

 いまの麻生政権にこの難題をこなし、将来への土台を敷けるだけの求心力があるだろうか。

Only through an election can Aso's administration gain the clear public mandate it needs to pursue its policy agenda with vigor.

総選挙の洗礼を受け、国民の信を得て初めて強力な政治を行う基盤ができる。

Aso has his back to the wall

■土壇場の麻生政権 

If the entire fiscal rehabilitation agenda must be shelved temporarily in order to put the economy back on a growth track, then the government must also set up effective measures to prevent profligate spending.

 景気対策のため財政再建を一時棚上げするのなら、放漫財政に流れないための歯止めが不可欠になる。

One possible step would be passing a Cabinet resolution that would reinstate the budget austerity regimen as soon as the economy resumes growth. It would in effect place a time limit on the fiscal free-spending policy.

たとえば、経済成長がプラスへ回復したときには、財政出動をうち切って財政再建路線へ復帰する、と閣議決定などで明確にしておく、といったことだ。 

As the nation's history shows, Japan's governments have tended to become addicted to the idea of nonstop spending to achieve economic growth, piling on debt to finance a "stimulant" habit. To ensure that Aso's envisioned fiscal expansion will remain in line with the aim of cleaning up public finances, the government needs to create a strict framework for maintaining discipline in spending.

 いちど財政による刺激に頼ると、もっと景気がよくなるまでと欲をかき、赤字の山を築いてしまう。それが景気対策の歴史だった。財政立て直しと両立させるには、自らを律する厳しい枠をつくっておく必要がある。 

But taking such measures requires powerful political muscle. Aso must exert solid control over the ruling camp. To ensure the budget and other spending plans are enacted as envisioned, the government also needs to figure out ways to win the support of the opposition camp, which controls the Upper House. The Aso administration now has its back to the wall.

 これらの手だてを講ずるには、政府与党を抑え込む相当な腕力が必要だ。予算などを成立させるには、野党とも折り合いをつけていかねばならない。麻生政権はまさに土壇場に立った。

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