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2012年9月20日 (木)

予算の執行抑制 国民生活への影響を回避せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 20, 2012)
Legislative row over budget threatens people's well-being
予算の執行抑制 国民生活への影響を回避せよ(9月19日付・読売社説)

Doesn't it seem that the ruling and opposition parties are making light of financing for the national budget? They must work to resolve the current extraordinary situation concerning state finances as soon as possible.

The government has started limiting the use of funds for the fiscal 2012 budget. This is because the government will not be able to secure fiscal resources of 38 trillion yen--equivalent to 40 percent of projected state revenue--due to the scrapping of the special bill on issuance of deficit-covering government bonds in the ordinary Diet session that ended earlier this month.

This is the first time in the postwar era that the spending of funds for the national budget has been held back on a full-scale basis.

The bill has been used as a bargaining chip by the ruling and opposition parties over a dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election. There is no clear prospect of the bill clearing the Diet.

Postponing the spending of some funds is unavoidable as an emergency measure.

The government plans to hold back the spending of 5 trillion yen over three months from September. The 5 trillion yen includes tax grants allocated to prefectural governments and subsidies for independent administrative entities.

The postponement of local allocation tax grants strengthened upward pressure on short-term interest rates, thereby influencing the financial market. This is because local financial institutions moved to secure funds from the market as they could not obtain the deposits they hoped to gain from the local governments to which tax grants are allocated.


Delay not a solution

The measure adopted this time to restrain budget implementation will only postpone the depletion of state coffers by about one month.

If the bill does not clear the Diet until November, the government may find it difficult to secure necessary funds in December, a month when government spending is usually high. If spending for medical insurance expenses and welfare benefits is delayed by further restraint on the use of funds, it will have a wider impact on people's lives.

A system is in place for the Finance Ministry to issue bonds to make up for a short-term fund shortage. But the issuance of these bonds on the pretext of a shortage of fiscal resources is unprecedented and would violate the public finance law.

If the ruling and opposition parties put off the Diet passage of the bill on the presumption that they can address the issue by issuing Finance Ministry bonds, they are abdicating their responsibilities.

If they continue to receive grants from the government to political parties while turning a blind eye to their own dereliction of duty, it will be impossible to win over the people.


Political football

Some members of the Democratic Party of Japan have sought to delay the dissolution of the lower house as long as possible, citing the delay in passage of the bill as an excuse. But the DPJ must not be allowed to ignore an agreement between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki that the lower house is to be dissolved "sometime soon."

The bill on issuance of deficit-financing government bonds was also used last year as a bargaining chip over the resignation of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Noda said: "If the cabinet resigns or the lower house is dissolved every time the bill is taken hostage annually, no prime minister will be able to stay in office for more than one year." Concerning measures to handle the bill in a divided Diet, where the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition camp, he expressed his intention to coordinate views with the opposition parties.

His statement is understandable. It is essential to look into the possibility of establishing a system or a precedent to prevent the bill from being used as a political football any longer.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2012)
(2012年9月19日01時50分  読売新聞)


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