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2009年8月28日 (金)

09総選挙・消費税―増税論議をすみやかに

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 27(IHT/Asahi: August 28,2009)
EDITORIAL: Consumption tax hike
09総選挙・消費税―増税論議をすみやかに

During the campaign for Sunday's Lower House election, Japanese voters have heard little serious debate among the parties on one issue that has huge implications for the nation's future: the proposed increase in the consumption tax rate.
 「国のかたち」を決める大事な論戦が低調なまま、総選挙の投票日がやってこようとしている。消費税の増税問題である。

Both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan have admitted that the consumption tax will have to be raised sooner or later to finance social security spending, which will keep swelling in the years to come as the population ages rapidly.
 自民党も民主党も、高齢社会のなかで今後膨らみ続ける社会保障財源として、消費税率引き上げが必要になることは認めている。

If so, the two main parties have a responsibility to present a clear tax-hike plan to voters as part of their quest for a public mandate to govern the nation.
ならばその見取り図を有権者に示すことが政権を争う政党としての責任のはずだ。

Unfortunately, however, both parties have ducked the issue in the election debate.
 ところが両党とも総選挙の争点から外してしまった。これは国民にとっても不幸なことではないか。

Annual social security outlays will balloon to 140 trillion yen in 2025 from the current 90 trillion yen, according to a government estimate.
 政府の推計では、いま年間90兆円の社会保障給付費が2025年には140兆円に膨らむ。

If lowering the levels of pension, healthcare and nursing-care benefits is not a policy option, it is a political imperative to figure out ways to secure necessary funds from taxes and premiums.
年金や医療、介護の水準を下げる選択肢がないとすれば、財源を税や保険料で確保していくことが政治のつとめである。

A tax hike is always unpopular among the people. That's why the history of the consumption tax in Japan is littered with serious setbacks for successive LDP administrations.
 増税は不人気な政策だ。だから消費税の歴史は歴代自民党政権にとって試練の連続だった。

In 1979, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira made a failed attempt to introduce a consumption tax into Japan. In 1989, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita finally introduced the consumption tax. In 1997, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto raised the tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent.
79年に大平内閣の一般消費税構想が挫折。89年に竹下内閣が消費税を導入し、97年に橋本内閣が税率5%にした。

All these moves were followed by an electoral drubbing for the LDP.
その代償は、いずれも国政選挙での大敗だった。

In recent years, the LDP government has been carefully avoiding this political third rail on the pretext that wasteful expenditures must be eliminated first before considering a tax hike.
 近年の自民党政権は「歳出の無駄削減が先」という大義の陰で、消費増税の試練から逃げてきた。

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed not to raise the tax during his tenure. His three successors--Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and incumbent Taro Aso--set time frames for radical tax reform. But they all eschewed tackling the hot-button issue of the consumption tax head-on by ruling out a rate increase under their administrations.
小泉首相は「自分の任期中には消費税を上げない」と宣言。安倍、福田、麻生の3首相は税制抜本改革の目標時期を設けたが、在任中は増税しないという「先送り」策を続けた。

DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama has promised to keep the consumption tax rate unchanged for at least four years. This also sounds like an evasive tactic.
 民主党の鳩山代表は「4年間は消費税は上げない」と公約したが、それも逃げ口上のように響く。

The two parties are treating the issue of a consumption tax hike as a political taboo probably because of fear about a possible public backlash. But how does the public actually feel about the issue?
 両党が消費税をタブー視するのは世論の増税批判を恐れてのことだろうが、国民の方はどうか。

An Asahi Shimbun survey earlier this month found that 83 percent of the respondents felt anxiety about how the LDP and the DPJ would finance the policy measures promised in their election manifestoes.
 朝日新聞が今月中旬に実施した世論調査では自民、民主両党の公約を実現するための財源に83%の人が「不安を感じる」と答えた。

It seems voters are well aware that eliminating wasteful spending won't create unlimited sources of revenue. They also appear to know that the government can neither rely on "buried money," or reserves in special budget accounts, for long-term financing of social security programs nor keep postponing a tax hike forever.
 予算の無駄を省けば財源が泉のようにわいてくるというものではなく、「埋蔵金」頼みや増税先送りでは済まないことを、有権者はとっくに見抜いているのではないか。

Of course, the government must wait until the end of the global economic crisis to actually raise the levy.
 もちろん、実際に増税するのは世界経済危機の克服後でなければならない。

But debate must start at an early stage on such key questions as how large the hike should be or whether different tax rates should be applied to certain kinds of goods and services.
だが、どのくらいの規模の増税が必要か。消費税は複数税率にするのか、といった議論も早い段階から積み重ねておく必要がある。

Debate on a tax increase should involve sweeping reviews of the three main revenue sources--the income, corporate and consumption taxes.
 その場合、税源の中核である所得税、法人税、消費税のあり方を全般的に見直す必要はある。

Yet what must be centermost in the debate is the consumption tax rate, which at 5 percent is far lower than comparative sales tax rates in other major industrial nations.
それにしても増税論議の中心となるのは、やはり税率5%と主要国のなかで際だって低い水準の消費税だろう。

Another reason for focusing on the consumption tax is that this tax revenue is stable and less susceptible to economic conditions, which means the levy is suitable as a source of funds to finance social security programs.
税収が景気にあまり左右されずに安定しており、社会保障財源に向いていることもある。

The new government should act swiftly to start serious tax reform debate focusing on the consumption tax while starting efforts to reduce wasteful outlays.
 新政権は、歳出の無駄減らしを進めるとともに、税制抜本改革の議論にすみやかに入るべきである。

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