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2011年3月 3日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 2
EDITORIAL: DPJ should be willing to discuss budget bill revisions

The Lower House passed the government's budget for fiscal 2011 in the early hours of Tuesday. Even if rejected by the opposition-controlled Upper House, the budget will still be enacted through a constitutional provision.

However, the Lower House postponed voting on budget-related bills, including the issuance of deficit-covering government bonds, because of the uncertainty of how they will fare in the Upper House. Thus, the budget was sent to the Upper House without the certainty of securing the necessary funding.

Both the ruling and opposition camps are responsible for ending this abnormal situation. We strongly hope they will discuss amendments to the bills and reach an agreement.

Before the Lower House vote, opposition parties moved to demand changes to the budget bills.

The motion introduced by the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party calls for scrapping the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's signature child allowance initiative and other plans, and appropriating 1.4 trillion yen ($16.8 billion) to public works projects by cutting government personnel costs.

The motion also calls for shrinking the overall size of the budget from 92.4 trillion yen to 89.3 trillion yen.

There is a big gap in thinking between the LDP and the government, but we believe it is possible for them to find common ground. Specifically, both sides should ask themselves what their priorities are.
And while it is important to remain principled, they should also be flexible enough to revise their specific policies. This is the attitude we expect from them.

The biggest challenge our country now faces is the aging population and low birthrate.

Working-age Japanese are decreasing in number, which means more people will have to be supported. This is certainly one of the reasons why our social security system is fraying at the seams, the economy is faltering, and our fiscal problems are getting worse.

Such being the situation, surely our top priority is to make society a kinder and easier place for people to bear and raise children. There is no need for the DPJ to abandon its "children first" principle.

The LDP wants to scrap the child allowance initiative, but make up for it by reviving and expanding child-support benefits. However, the size of the overall budget for child care will be considerably smaller than what the government plan calls for.

Also, the LDP wants to appropriate the money thus saved to public works projects, but we don't believe this will help to rebuild our country.

That said, however, we don't think the DPJ's child allowance initiative is the best program for people with children.

We propose that high-income families be excluded from the initiative, as was the case with traditional child-support benefits. As well, we believe the government should focus more on improving child-care services than providing cash handouts. The government should heed these opinions.

Other opposition arguments stand to reason. For instance, making highways toll-free is certainly not a top priority issue for our country. The government should withdraw initiatives of this nature and shrink the overall budget.

The historic change of government in 2009 is supposed to have ushered in a new era of politics. We would like to see it manifested in the process of budget bill revision.

If the ruling and opposition camps can exchange good ideas and work together to come up with better budget bills, then the Diet can be said to be fulfilling its intended function.

In the Upper House election last year, voters decided they didn't want the DPJ administration to just do as it pleases. We should interpret their decision to mean that they would rather see the ruling and opposition parties engage in more fruitful debate and work more closely together than watch the DPJ cling stubbornly to its campaign manifesto.

There is no need for the ruling DPJ to feel it is being forced to compromise. On the contrary, the party should realize that revising the budget bills is exactly how it can comply with the will of the people. If the DPJ cannot hope for cooperation from the opposition camp, then it should be prepared to go it alone.


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