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2009年2月18日 (水)

GDP激減―戦後最大の危機に備えよ

2009/2/18

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 17(IHT/Asahi: February 18,2009)

EDITORIAL: The shrinking economy

GDP激減―戦後最大の危機に備えよ

The nation's real gross domestic product tumbled by an annualized rate of 12.7 percent in the October-December quarter, the sharpest contraction since 1974 amid the first oil crisis, and the second double-digit decline in the postwar era.

 昨年10~12月期の実質国内総生産(GDP)が年率換算で12.7%減となった。第1次石油危機のとき以来、戦後2度目の2けたマイナス成長である。

The drop was far steeper than the 3.8-percent fall in the United States and the 5.7-percent decrease in the euro zone of Europe.

米国の3.8%減、欧州ユーロ圏の5.7%減と比べても、落ち込み幅がはるかに大きい。 

When signs of a simultaneous global recession began to mount last autumn amid the financial crisis that started in the United States, the government believed that Japan would suffer less than the Western nations, the epicenter of the crisis. As it has turned out, however, Japan has been hit harder than any other major industrial country.

 昨秋、米国発の金融危機が起きて世界同時不況の色彩が強まっても、政府は「危機の震源地・米欧に比べれば日本の傷は浅い」と見ていた。ところが、結果的に主要国で最も打撃を受けたのは日本だった。 

The biggest factor behind this drastic deterioration of Japan's economic health is the structural fragility of the economy, which has been too dependent on exports, particularly those to the United States, for growth.

 ここまで急激に悪化した最大の要因は、米国向けを中心に輸出に頼りすぎてきた経済構造のもろさにある。

The rapid contractions of the U.S. and European markets have decimated Japanese exports, prompting companies to cut production and capital investment in plants and equipment. Reduced production and shrinking outlays in the business sector are jeopardizing job security, thereby weakening consumer confidence and creating a vicious cycle of contraction.

米欧市場が急速に縮小し輸出に急ブレーキがかかって、あわてた企業が生産を絞り設備投資を削った。これにより雇用不安が高まり消費者心理が冷え込む、という悪循環が始まっている。 

Given the expected depth and length of the economic downturn and the difficulty of putting the economy back on a growth track, this should be regarded as the biggest economic crisis for Japan since the end of World War II, as Kaoru Yosano, the economic and fiscal policy minister, said.

 景気の「谷」の深さや長さ、回復の道筋の険しさから考えて、与謝野経済財政相が言うとおり「戦後最大の経済危機」と見るべきだ。 

The question is what must be done.

 問題は、では何をするかである。 

The corrosive effects of collapsing exports are certain to start choking domestic demand, making the job situation even worse and crimping consumer spending.

 これだけ輸出が激減したのだから、ショックはこれから内需へ波及して、雇用がさらに悪化し消費が縮むにちがいない。

The biggest challenge facing the government is how to prevent unemployment from creeping up. It will be necessary for the time being to alleviate the shortage in domestic demand with increased fiscal spending, including that for public works projects.

失業対策は最大の課題だ。公共事業などの財政出動により国内の需要不足をできるだけカバーすることも、当面は必要になる。 

At the same time, however, policymakers must also see the challenges from medium- and long-term perspectives. What they must remember are the lessons from the 1990s, when Japan went through a prolonged period of economic malaise after the bursting of the asset-inflated economic bubble. Back then, the government spent about 130 trillion yen over about 10 years on public works and other measures to nurture economic growth. But the economic stagnation continued.

 ただし同時に、中長期的な視点も忘れてはならない。思い起こさねばならないのは、日本のバブル崩壊後の90年代の反省だ。約10年間で公共事業を中心に総額130兆円の景気対策を打ったが、経済の低迷が続いた。 

Huge fiscal spending to build roads, bridges and public facilities may temporarily relieve a shortage in demand. However, unless such spending lays a foundation for renewed growth, the nation will have to struggle under a fiscal crunch.

 ハコモノを大量生産して需要不足の穴を一時的に埋めても、それが次の経済成長に結びつかないかぎり、悪化した財政の代償をいずれは払わねばならなくなる。

The government must curb growth in social security spending despite the rapid aging of the population because it is saddled with a huge amount of debt--a legacy of the spending spree in the 1990s.

高齢化社会を迎えているのに社会保障予算を抑制しなければならないのも、巨額の景気対策のツケを抱えているからである。 

In their joint statement issued over the weekend, the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven (G-7) major industrial nations pledged to act together to provide fiscal stimulus to their economies. But the statement nevertheless stressed the importance of policy measures being consistent with fiscal sustainability.

 積極財政で足並みをそろえようと宣言した先週末の主要7カ国財務相・中央銀行総裁会議(G7)の声明も、財政悪化への配慮を求めている。 

Japan's policy responses to its economic ill-health in the 1990s lacked the viewpoint of long-term investments to deal with the nation's shrinking population.

 90年代の景気対策は、人口減に備えた長期投資という視点が欠けていた。

There was little effective policy investment for a better economic future, such as expenditures to improve the working environment for women and old people or spending on plans to foster new industries.

女性や高齢者が働きやすい環境の整備や、新産業を生むための仕掛けづくりなど、将来の日本経済に必要な政策投資はほとんど進まなかった。 

The economic crisis has made it clear that the nation's industrial structure is exacerbating the situation. The government should now lay down a vision for a wholesale makeover of the economy, instead of another large but ineffective stimulus plan.

 産業構造が危機を一層深めていることがはっきりした今こそ、額を膨らますだけの景気対策でなく、日本経済の大改造をめざしたビジョンが必要だ。 

Calls for a new stimulus package are growing within the ruling camp. But can we really expect Prime Minister Taro Aso's government, which is on the brink of collapse, to offer a long-term vision? Both the ruling and opposition parties should try to figure out ways for the nation to overcome its biggest postwar economic crisis.

 与党から次の景気対策を求める声が出始めたが、末期状態にある麻生政権に長期ビジョンを望めるだろうか。戦後最大の経済危機を打開する動きが、与野党から出て来なければならない。

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