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2012年11月15日 (木)

赤字国債合意 ねじれ国会の暫定休戦協定だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 15, 2012)
Accord on bond bill a welcome ceasefire
赤字国債合意 ねじれ国会の暫定休戦協定だ(11月14日付・読売社説)

An exit from the battle between the ruling and opposition parties is finally in sight.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito must create an environment for the dissolution of the House of Representatives based on their latest agreement.

The three parties have formally agreed to revise a bill that will enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds. The revised bill will introduce a system that allows deficit-covering bonds to be automatically issued until fiscal 2015 once the budget passes the Diet.

Under the divided Diet, the opposition parties, which dominate the House of Councillors, have put pressure on the government by taking the deficit-covering bond bill hostage, but further unproductive political strife can now be avoided because of the latest agreement. We commend the ruling and opposition parties for formulating new rules on the issue.

Last year, the passage of a similar bill was used as a bargaining tool to bring about the resignation of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

This year, it was used by the opposition parties as a "weapon" to press Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve the lower house. However, the delay in Diet passage of the bill led the government to restrain the implementation of the budget, and the distribution of tax grants to local governments fell into arrears. It is only natural that local governments reacted angrily to the delay, with officials saying things like, "It could affect people's lives."


Bond issuance inevitable

As Noda said, any administration, under the current fiscal situation, would be unable to secure financial resources sufficient to cover the government's spending without issuing deficit-covering bonds.

Even if the LDP and Komeito return to power after the next lower house election, they still will not hold a majority in the upper house. So the agreement that the three parties will not use the bill as a political football is not a bad deal for the LDP and Komeito, too.

However, one concern still remains in the latest agreement.

The issuance of deficit-covering bonds is an exceptional measure to cover shortages of financial resources. It was originally "a prohibited tactic."

The passage of the bill has been a must, separately from the budget, with the aim of maintaining fiscal discipline and preventing the government's deficit from ballooning out of control.

Under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Takeo Miki (1974-76), Finance Minister Masayoshi Ohira stressed the significance of deliberating a deficit-covering bond bill every year, saying in the Diet, "It is conducive to vigilant management of state finances." Nevertheless, deficit-covering bonds have continued to increase, causing serious deterioration of public finances.

If it becomes possible to issue deficit-covering bonds automatically in the future, won't fiscal discipline become lax?


Restraint must be the watchword

The DPJ-LDP-Komeito agreement is based on the premise that the government will work on restraining the amount of deficit-covering bonds it will issue. Even if there is a change in government, the government must keep this in mind when it compiles a budget.

A remaining issue to be solved before the lower house dissolution is reform of the lower house electoral system. The DPJ plans to submit to the Diet a bill to rectify the vote-value disparity and trim the number of lower house seats at the same time.

However, what is most called for now is to resolve "a state of unconstitutionality."

Noda said in the Diet, "the vote-value disparity, which is related to the Constitution, is the top priority." The DPJ, the LDP and Komeito should also quickly agree to reduce the number of lower house single-seat constituencies by five as a first step in the electoral reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 14, 2012)
(2012年11月14日01時20分  読売新聞)


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