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2012年6月10日 (日)

消費税修正協議 日本再建の大局を忘れるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 10, 2012)
Ruling, opposition parties must cooperate on needed reforms
消費税修正協議 日本再建の大局を忘れるな(6月9日付・読売社説)

It is of utmost importance for the three major parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito--to do their best to reach a consensus by making reciprocal concessions to rebuild the nation's social security and tax systems.

Working-level negotiations between the three parties have started on modifications of a government-sponsored set of bills for social security and tax reforms.

The three parties have agreed to make their best efforts to reach an agreement on changes to the bills no later than Friday.

The accord can be called a step toward achieving the goal set by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of putting the set of seven bills to a vote in the House of Representatives by the end of the current Diet session on June 21.

Achieving sustainability in the country's social security system, increasingly strained by an aging population and chronically low birthrate, and turning around government finances saddled with debts as high as 1 yen quadrillion are two essential goals.

The government-envisioned integrated reform for solving these challenges is a top-priority task that will be decisive to the future of the nation.

A subcommittee for discussing social security issues as part of the three-party consultations is said to be holding discussions even on Sunday. It is no easy task, however, for the three parties to agree on all modifications in a single week.


DPJ concessions needed first

A window of opportunity has appeared in which the three parties may be able to reach common ground on key policy issues. They should sincerely try to do so.

The DPJ, LDP and Komeito are at odds with each other over a number of points regarding the social security system.

For one thing, the LDP has opposed the DPJ's aims of creating a minimum pension guarantee system and abolishing the medical insurance system for those aged 75 or older. The LDP also opposes the DPJ's policies on additional pension benefits for low-income earners and expanding measures for child-rearing assistance.

The subcommittee's debate on Friday ended inconclusively. To produce an accord at an early date, it is first of all essential for the DPJ to make a bold, major concession to the LDP.

The LDP, for its part, should refrain from taking a hard-line approach in which it demands the DPJ back down on its manifesto pledges from the 2009 general election, under which it came to power, in a bid to make the ruling party "swallow" LDP policies.

The DPJ's manifesto pledges do include problematic elements. But under the current circumstances, the LDP should show a willingness to compromise instead of making a point of lashing out at the DPJ.

Even if the executives of the three parties concur on modifications of the bills, a vote on them in the Diet can only come after procedures within the respective parties to endorse revisions to the bills.

In the DPJ, in particular, there has been a strong body of opinion that opposes or is wary of raising the consumption tax. Modifications in the form of unilateral concessions by the DPJ will not win endorsement by a majority of party members, which would eventually lead to failure to enact the bills.


Ease burden on low-income earners

To avoid such a stalemate, it would be realistic for the parties to agree to defer discussion of highly controversial issues, such as minimum pension guarantees and medical insurance arrangements for the aged, to a national council to be created in the future, as proposed by the LDP.

As far as taxes are concerned, there are no major policy differences between the DPJ and the LDP, as shown by the fact that the LDP has thrown its support behind the government's plan to raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in two stages.

The focus is on what steps should be taken to ease the burden of the tax hike on people in low income brackets.

The DPJ has come out with such proposals as introduction of a system of earned income tax credits, or refundable tax credits for lower-income working families and individuals. If cash payments from the government swell under such a system, the dangers of dole-out policies will arise again.

It may be advisable for the three parties to deepen discussions about the wisdom of introducing lower consumption tax rates for such daily necessities as food, as the opposition has been calling for.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 9, 2012)
(2012年6月9日01時31分  読売新聞)


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