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2009年1月 6日 (火)

急変する世界 国政遂行の枠組みを作れ、予算を早期に成立させよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 6, 2009)

Nation in need of new political framework

急変する世界 国政遂行の枠組みを作れ、予算を早期に成立させよ(16日付・読売社説)

With the nation facing a worldwide simultaneous economic downturn, political leadership is needed now more than ever.


The term of House of Representatives members expires Sept. 10. A lower house election must be held by the autumn.


How can the nation form a political framework to promptly and vigorously pursue policy goals?


Both political parties and individual politicians now must take to heart their grave responsibility and act with prudence.


At his first press conference this year, Prime Minister Taro Aso stressed the urgent need for economic stimulus measures. He said he would not consider dissolving the lower house until the vital fiscal 2009 budget and related bills had been passed by the Diet.


Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa said doubts about the current administration's ability to continue would grow beyond the prime minister's intention and urged the swift dissolution of the lower house.



Mindful of election

The ordinary Diet session, which was convened Monday despite the matsunouchi New Year period, is likely to be tense as lawmakers are keenly aware of the possibility of dissolution of the lower house.


The government and ruling parties hastened to open the Diet session early because they need to pass a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 and the fiscal 2009 budget as soon as possible to address the rapidly deteriorating economy and the increasingly serious employment situation.


The Aso Cabinet has been shaken by its rapidly declining approval rate. Yoshimi Watanabe, former state minister in charge of administrative reform, has indicated he may leave the Liberal Democratic Party. The fate of the Aso administration will depend on its ability to get through this Diet session.


The ruling parties intend to pass the second supplementary budget, which includes flat-sum cash benefits, and its related bills in the lower house in mid-January.


But the DPJ has decided to submit to the lower house a revised budget that dropped the cash benefit and related plans. The leading opposition party is set to urge thorough deliberations on the extra budget at the House of Councillors. The ruling camp thus has little prospect of swift passage of the extra budget.



Pointless payoff

The cash benefit plan is unlikely to generate much economic effect, despite its 2-trillion yen price tag.


But if the DPJ unnecessarily delays Diet deliberations, it would go against its own election campaign slogan--"the people's livelihood is a top priority."


Delay in passing the budgets due to turbulent Diet deliberations would result in further economic decline. The ruling and opposition parties should avoid a power struggle and instead join hands to quickly pass the budgets.



The next lower house election will be a battle for power between the two major parties--the LDP and the DPJ.


They will be tested strictly by voters over whether the LDP still has the capacity to remain in power and whether the DPJ is responsible enough to take power.


Another question to be asked in the election is what the party that takes power intends to do with it. What kind of nation do they intend to make Japan? Each party must show detailed plans for the nation's future.


How can economic and social vigor be maintained as the nation's population shrinks with a declining birthrate and graying society? How can the social security system, including pensions, medical services and nursing care, be reorganized in a way that restores people's trust?


What roles should the nation play to foster global stability? How can the nation's security be protected?



Squabbling won't serve

If the ruling and opposition parties stick to fighting each other over dole-out policies such as the LDP's cash benefit plan and the DPJ's child allowance plan, they will not be able to win voters' hearts.


Aso clearly referred to a hike in the consumption tax rate in fiscal 2011 in the government's medium-term program for drastic tax reform likely out of a sense of responsibility as one in power.


The DPJ is set to fight the next general election on the same policy platform it had in the 2007 upper house election, including the creation of minimum pension guarantees and the provision of income guarantees to farmers in some cases.


But as much as 20.5 trillion yen will be needed to implement those policy measures. The question arises of whether this amount could be allocated through reform of the administrative and fiscal system alone without raising the consumption tax rate. The DPJ should be clear on the source of revenue needed to carry out the measures.


We hope each party actively engages in debate in the current Diet session to clarify points of contention in the upcoming election.


Voters are increasingly frustrated with the current political situation in which a divided Diet hinders speedy decision-making.



Split legislature


Even if the LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito secure a majority of lower house seats in the next election, the Diet will remain divided with the upper house controlled by the opposition camp.


In addition, it seems certain that the ruling parties will fail to retain two-thirds or more of the lower house seats needed to pass bills through a second vote. This means that the nation's legislative process will not function if opposition parties defeat bills in the upper house.


If opposition parties, including the DPJ, win a majority of lower house seats in the election, the problem of a divided Diet will disappear.


But it also will be difficult for the DPJ to secure a majority in both chambers on its own. The DPJ will have to seek the cooperation of other opposition parties such as the Social Democratic Party despite differences in policy.


Regardless of which party takes power, it is necessary to have a framework to carry out state affairs without delay. To secure a majority in both chambers, it seems unavoidable for the political circles to form a coalition with different partners and undergo political realignment.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 6, 2009)

2009160135  読売新聞)


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