« 2012年11月 | トップページ | 2013年1月 »


2012年12月31日 (月)

教育政策 高校無償化の見直しは妥当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 31, 2012)
Review of tuition-free program for high schools appropriate
教育政策 高校無償化の見直しは妥当だ(12月30日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently has shown his true colors in the educational area that he is willing to reform.

The previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government held off on a decision over whether to include pro-Pyongyang Korean schools in its tuition-free program for high schools. The Abe administration has decided to exclude them.

In giving a reason for this decision, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said there had been no developments regarding the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.
Shimomura also said the finances and curriculums of those schools are under the influence of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, which reportedly has strong ties with North Korea.

The education ministry has been studying whether to include these schools based on standards established under the DPJ-led administration, but the Abe administration, acting independently, made its own decision, Shimomura said.

If these schools were included in the program, the government would provide grants totaling 200 million yen a year for tuition to 10 pro-Pyongyang Korean high schools in Japan.

It seems certain taxpayers would be puzzled why the government is spending their money on these schools unless it was able to ensure the grants would not be used for purposes other than tuition or that the schools would not teach students material that deviated from the facts.


Income cap reasonable

Shimomura already has said he would review the current tuition-free program for high schools and impose income ceilings on families receiving grants, starting in fiscal 2014.

The program was an eye-catching policy devised by the DPJ-led government, as it believed society as a whole should help raise children. However, the program was constantly criticized as a handout because it was applied to everyone without exception, including students whose parents were well-off.

In addition to tuition, school supplies and other necessities are heavy financial burdens for high school students. The Abe administration plans to save money by reducing the number of students under the program with the introduction of income caps, and to utilize the funds saved to support low-income earners. We think this is a good idea.


Measures against bullying

Another big issue in the educational field is school bullying, for which countermeasures must be taken as soon as possible.

Since summer, serious bullying cases have surfaced around the country.

In a bullying case involving an Otsu middle school boy who killed himself in October last year, for instance, papers on two of three classmates were sent to prosecutors on suspicion of assault or other charges.
The other was sent to a child consultation center for delinquency.

Bullying is caused by a lack of sensitivity toward other people.

We praise the Abe government for announcing plans to enhance moral education at school.

Respect for social norms and public morality must be nurtured at school and through work experiences in local communities.

Enactment of a basic law on measures to prevent bullying is also being studied.

It is significant for society as a whole to use the law-making process to say bullying will never be tolerated.

We expect legislation to call on local governments and schools to take tangible measures to prevent school bullying.

We also hope the government will discuss the function of education boards, as the education board that dealt with the Otsu case proved dysfunctional.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2012)
(2012年12月30日01時17分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012回顧・世界 国際舞台の役者が出そろった

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 31, 2012)
World's future depends on new lineup of global leaders
2012回顧・世界 国際舞台の役者が出そろった(12月30日付・読売社説)

The year 2012 saw presidential elections and leadership changes in several major countries.

These big upheavals in international politics were also prominent in this year's top 10 overseas news events selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers.

The biggest international story of 2012, as chosen by our readers, was Barack Obama's reelection as U.S. president.

Although the world is said to be heading toward an era of multipolarization, the United States' economic strength and unmatched military might ensure it remains the world's most influential superpower.

A string of preelection debates between Obama of the Democratic Party and Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, were closely watched by people around the world.

The Obama administration's top priority is keeping the U.S. economic recovery on track while rebuilding deficit-ridden government finances.

During his first term, Obama hammered out a diplomatic strategy that placed greater emphasis on Asia. This will significantly shape the future of Japan-U.S. relations.


Little good news on China

Taking second place in Yomiuri readers' lineup of overseas stories was the change in the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xi Jinping has been selected as the party's general secretary.

The Japanese public's interest in the Chinese leadership reached new heights, undoubtedly because China has been ramping up pressure on Japan over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.

Some protests that erupted in cities in China against the Japanese government's decision to nationalize some of the Senkakus turned violent, and some Japanese companies operating there suffered heavy financial and physical damage. Despite 2012 marking the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic ties, there were few bright spots in Tokyo-Beijing relations.

In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency, a story that ranked sixth among our readers. Putin has committed to bolstering Russia's national strength by beefing up economic relations with nations in Asia.

Near the end of 2012, Park Geun Hye won South Korea's presidential election. This ranked 20th in the list of overseas events. We will closely watch how Park, South Korea's first female president, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe try to improve Tokyo-Seoul relations.

These new leaders are now free from the stifling pressure of their election races. We urge them to address a range of problems next year without being excessively focused on domestic affairs, and deepen international cooperation.


North Korea's isolation deepens

In North Korea, Kim Jong Un, the third son of Kim Jong Il, the general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea who died late last year, took the post of first secretary of the ruling party. Our readers chose this as the third-biggest international story of 2012. In an apparent bid to solidify the power base of the third-generation leader's regime, North Korea defiantly fired missiles in April and December.

It is a cause of strong concern that North Korea has further isolated itself from the international community.

By contrast, Myanmar President Thein Sein has pushed ahead with a democratization process and repaired relations with the global community. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's victory in a parliamentary by-election, which ranked fifth in the Yomiuri readers' selection, is symbolic of this change.

In Europe, there was happy news such as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 60th jubilee, which ranked fourth, mixed with gloomy developments such as Europe's fiscal and financial crises worsening to the extent that Spain had to request financial assistance from the eurozone, which ranked 10th.

Next year, all eyes will be on how Europe's economic situation unfolds.

Ranking eighth was Syria's protracted civil war between the regime of President Bashar Assad and antigovernment forces.

Repercussions from the Arab Spring uprisings are still shaking the Middle East.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2012)
(2012年12月30日01時17分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月30日 (日)

2012回顧・日本 再生への希望が芽生えた年

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 30, 2012)
Positive events in 2012 set stage for nation's recovery
2012回顧・日本 再生への希望が芽生えた年(12月29日付・読売社説)

Many readers must have gained hope and courage from the bright news stories of 2012.

Among this year's top 10 domestic news stories selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers, the awarding of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka headed the list. The opening of Tokyo Skytree ranked second, followed by the winning of a record number of medals by Japanese athletes at the London Olympics.

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells developed by Yamanaka have contributed greatly to medical progress toward realizing the regeneration of damaged organs.

However, after it was announced he had won the award, Yamanaka said, "I haven't saved even one patient yet [with my iPS technology]." The professor's humble and sincere attitude favorably impressed many people.

Tokyo Skytree has attracted 28 million visitors in the six months since it opened to the public in May. The 634-meter Skytree is the world's tallest free-standing broadcast tower.

If Tokyo Tower, the second-tallest tower in Japan, is a symbol of Japan's past rapid economic growth, what will the popular Tokyo Skytree come to symbolize?


Good news in sports

Japanese athletes won a record 38 medals--including seven gold medals--at the Summer Olympic Games held in London. In women's wrestling, Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho grabbed their third consecutive Olympic golds. And many female athletes such as members of the Nadeshiko Japan women's soccer team and volleyball and table tennis players performed superbly.

In eighth place on the list of top 10 domestic stories was the Yomiuri Giants' winning of the Japan Series, marking the team's first championship in three years and its 22nd overall.

Meanwhile, Hideki Matsui, who had been a Giants slugger for many years, announced his retirement Thursday. Matsui hit a total of 507 home runs while playing for the Giants, the New York Yankees and other major league teams, and won the World Series MVP award with the Yankees in 2009. Fans will take his dynamic batting style deep into their hearts.

The general election held in December, which resulted in the inauguration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet, ranked fourth on the list of top 10 stories. Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda promised the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito he would dissolve the House of Representatives "sometime soon" in return for their cooperation in passing bills related to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, which ranked 16th in the list of top domestic news stories. Noda kept his promise and dissolved the lower house, but his Democratic Party of Japan suffered a crushing defeat in the general election.


Change in government

The defeat ended the DPJ-led government's rule, which had lasted three years and three months.

The DPJ-led administration caused confusion in management of such national issues as the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, and its election pledges fell through. Many voters must have concluded the DPJ was not qualified to run the country. Prime Minister Abe is expected to draft and carry out realistic polices, and to stably run the government.

In fifth place on the list was the deterioration of Japan-China relations resulting from Japan's nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands. For instance, anti-Japanese demonstrators rioted and stormed Japanese firms in China. Improvement of the bilateral ties is a priority issue for the Abe Cabinet.

The collapse of ceiling panels in the Chuo Expressway's Sasago Tunnel in December, which killed nine people, ranked 7th. Aging infrastructure in the nation should be revamped as soon as possible.

We would like to see 2013 become the turning point in the nation's steady recovery.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2012)
(2012年12月29日01時20分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

次官連絡会議 真の「政治主導」を確立したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 30, 2012)
Real 'politician-led politics' should be pursued
次官連絡会議 真の「政治主導」を確立したい(12月29日付・読売社説)

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has nearly consolidated a politician-led government scheme and the political rules it aims to establish.

It must set up a system that will allow politicians and bureaucrats to cooperate in making policy decisions and implementing them swiftly. To this end, restoring the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats, which was strained under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, is indispensable.

At the first liaison meeting of top administrative officials of government ministries, Abe stressed, "We need to pursue real politician-led politics based on mutual trust between politicians and bureaucrats."

This meeting, attended by officials at the vice minister level, is scheduled to be held every Friday after Cabinet meetings. It is aimed to work as a place where the ministries and the Cabinet Office share information and consider specific measures in line with Cabinet decisions.

The DPJ-led government scraped such a liaison meeting and excluded bureaucrats from policymaking. The rebuffed bureaucrats became less proactive and more apt to wait for instructions. This significantly deteriorated government functions.

Abe's move to facilitate cooperation within the government through such top bureaucrats is understandable. We regard it as reasonable that Abe aims to correct the inappropriate political leadership pursued by the DPJ, which acted like an opposition party and did not trust bureaucrats.


Division of roles

A document on the roles of politicians and bureaucrats, agreed on during an informal ministerial meeting, says bureaucrats are tasked with providing basic information and presenting policy choices, while politicians are responsible for making policy decisions.

Unless politicians and bureaucrats divide their responsibilities and cooperate with each other, the government cannot work effectively on risk management, disaster responses and other state affairs.

It is also rational for the Abe administration to resume regular press conferences by top administrative officials, another practice that was discontinued under the DPJ-led government. Previously, there had never appeared to be any problems with bureaucrats assisting ministers by holding press briefings to explain issues at the practical level.

Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will reinstate procedures for submitting government-sponsored bills, allowing its General Council and divisions concerned of its Policy Research Council to examine and approve the bills in advance. The LDP Research Commission on the Tax System also will take the initiative in formulating government tax policies.

Such a decision-making process led by a political party makes it easy for politicians to shape policies that reflect the opinions of their constituents and industries concerned, but the measures could be distorted by such opinions. Swift policy decisions are likely to be difficult if the Policy Research Council divisions have clashing interests.


LDP to be tested over TPP

One noted example of this is the LDP's stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives and other entities oppose the multinational free trade framework. Over the TPP issue, the Foreign Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry are also confronting the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. Unless consensus is reached among lawmakers with different interests, the government will be unable to decide on Japan's participation in TPP negotiations.

Key policies that would affect national interests should be discussed from a broader perspective such as by the government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, and then be decided at the initiative of Prime Minister's Office.

Meanwhile, the LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito will also launch a liaison council as a consultative body of the government and ruling parties. We hope they will closely communicate with each other.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2012)
(2012年12月29日01時21分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月29日 (土)

安倍外交 日米「基軸」で隣国関係改善を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 29, 2012)
Use pact with U.S. as linchpin to improve ties with neighbors
安倍外交 日米「基軸」で隣国関係改善を(12月28日付・読売社説)


A little more than three years of administration by the Democratic Party of Japan has knocked Japan's diplomacy into a serious tailspin. How can it get back on course?

This is a task of great importance that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must address with everything in its power.

Abe is scheduled to make a trip to the United States as early as January to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama. The prime minister's visit to Washington appears in line with Abe's belief that strengthening the alliance between Japan and the United States should be the first step toward reconstructing relations with its neighbors, such as China and South Korea.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama threw the issue of relocating functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture off course, causing confusion and disruption in Japan-U.S. ties.

As though availing themselves of the mix-up, China, South Korea and Russia have each tried to knock Japan off balance over territorial problems.

Such is the common perception among people concerned with diplomatic issues regarding Japan's foreign policy situation.


Create a road map for security

The problem is how to hammer out and implement specific measures for beefing up the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In its platform for the latest House of Representatives election, the Liberal Democratic Party incorporated such pledges as enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and again revising the Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines.

Both are tasks of key significance that the Abe administration must accomplish. Setting an order of priority for steadily tackling them will help to resolidify the Tokyo-Washington alliance.

Expansion of the defense budget, which has been shrinking for 10 consecutive years, is a matter of urgency. The Abe Cabinet should take this into account in compiling a state budget for fiscal 2013.

Regarding the planned defense guideline revision for bolstering cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, bilateral consultations should be started at an early date to jointly study specifics.

Under the divided Diet, in which the ruling coalition controls the lower house but lacks a majority in the House of Councillors, it will be hard for the government to pass the set of bills Abe envisions to create a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council.

However, given that the opposition DPJ also has an idea similar to Abe's, the government would be well advised to call for joint consultations on the matter between the ruling and opposition blocs.

But when it comes to solving the collective self-defense right issue, it will be difficult to bridge the gaps in views between the LDP, its coalition partner New Komeito and the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. It would be realistic for the government to place priority first on deepening discussions within the ruling camp by setting a goal of accomplishing the task after next summer's upper house election.

When Abe visits the United States, the issue of Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact will certainly be high on the agenda. To ensure Japan's national interests are not marred, the government must be determined to take part in the TPP talks as early as possible.

The Futenma problem, which has remained stalled for many years, is now heading into a crucial stretch.

Construction of an alternative facility for the Futenma Air Station can never be undertaken without permission from Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima for land reclamation required for the project.

It is of especially high importance for the government to obtain understanding from a wider range of local people to create an environment in which it would be easier for Nakaima--who has been calling for Futenma's "relocation outside our prefecture"--to change his mind in favor of relocating it within the prefecture.

Relations between Japan and China have been tense ever since the government decision in September to nationalize some of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

An abnormal situation ensued, with Chinese government surveillance ships sailing in waters close to the Senkakus day after day.


Seek mutual benefit with China

Of course, Japan should not make any concession to China on its territorial sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. Even so, it would be seriously detrimental to the interests of both sides if the entire bilateral relationship is kept in a stalemate by this issue alone.

When Abe visited China six years ago, he succeeded in reaching an agreement with China to build a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" by refraining from making a definitive statement on whether he had visited or would visit Yasukuni Shrine. There must be a way to achieve a breakthrough even on diplomatic issues that are difficult to solve, if they are included as part of a wider scope of negotiations.

This time, for instance, the government could make the Senkaku issue a subject for continued discussion, while it seeks a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. Through such an approach to negotiations, Japan can aim at reaching a comprehensive agreement with the Xi Jinping administration. The Japanese government must mobilize all of its wisdom to do so.

For that purpose, it would be realistic for the government to shelve for the time being hard-line measures such as the "permanent stationing of government officials" on the Senkaku Islands, raised by the LDP in its list of policy measures to be studied.

"Assertive diplomacy," the slogan Abe raised on dealing with issues including territorial problems, is far better than "unassertive diplomacy." However, it will be meaningless if making assertions becomes an end unto itself.

What the new administration should aim at is a "diplomacy that produces achievements" through both hard and soft measures, sometimes seeking ways to solve problems in a levelheaded manner.

The government must also hasten improvements of relations with South Korea.

The change in administration from President Lee Myung Bak, who defiantly set foot on the Takeshima islands, which are Japanese territory, to Park Geun Hye is a good chance to improve bilateral ties. We think it is quite appropriate that Abe is thinking about sending a special envoy to Park.

To effectively face North Korea, which has been continuing its nuclear weapons development program, and China, which has been pursuing the road to military superpower status, close cooperation with South Korea, in addition to the United States, is indispensable.


Seek progress on abduction issue

Concerning Japan's relations with North Korea, scheduled bureau chief-level talks were postponed due to the North's ballistic missile launch this month.

To end the deadlock over the problem of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea, it is essential for the government to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the country's Workers' Party of Korea, that Japan is a country worth negotiating with.

With the opportunity presented by the transition from the DPJ-led administration, which had produced various kinds of confusion and turmoil, to the Abe administration, the government must strengthen its calls on North Korea along with a "dialogue and pressure" approach.

In relations with Russia, the government intends to dispatch former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who has close relations with President Vladimir Putin, to Russia around February, with an eye toward Abe's visit to the country later on.

Putin places importance on relations with Japan and has a zeal to solve the northern territories issue. It is important for Japan to advance both the territorial issue and cooperation on energy through repeated dialogues at various levels.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2012)
(2012年12月28日01時30分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月28日 (金)

第2次安倍内閣 危機突破へ政権の総力挙げよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 28, 2012)
Abe must work wholeheartedly to lead nation out of crisis
第2次安倍内閣 危機突破へ政権の総力挙げよ(12月27日付・読売社説)


Defeating deflation, continuing with post-disaster reconstruction, overhauling nuclear power policy, and rebuilding foreign policy--Japan is faced with many challenges.
However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's determination to resolve these issues was reflected in his choice of Cabinet ministers.

The second Abe Cabinet was formed Wednesday, making Abe the second politician since the end of World War II to make a comeback as prime minister, following Shigeru Yoshida (1878-1967).

"I would like to gain the trust of the public by producing results as soon as possible," Abe said at a press conference after being elected prime minister.

Abe's first Cabinet broke up five years ago after only a short period in office. Has he learned from the bitter experience? The spotlight is now on whether he can put his policies into practice.

Abe has said his Cabinet's reason for being is to "break through the national crisis." We hope the new prime minister can lead the nation out of the dead end it has found itself in.


Use bureaucrats to full potential

Political heavyweights including former Prime Minister Taro Aso, former Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki and former New Komeito Chief Representative Akihiro Ota gained spots in the Cabinet alongside midranking and junior lawmakers close to Abe, such as Takumi Nemoto, the new state minister for disaster reconstruction.

Abe built his Cabinet around a close confidant in choosing former LDP Acting Secretary General Yoshihide Suga as chief cabinet secretary. Hiroshige Seko, another Abe ally and former chairman of the LDP Policy Board in the House of Councillors, was appointed deputy chief secretary. Isao Iijima, who served as parliamentary secretary under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was made a special adviser to the Cabinet.

His appointments in the Cabinet Secretariat show Abe's desire to strengthen the collective power of his administration based on the leadership of the Cabinet Office, as well as to enhance the office's crisis-management capabilities.

The administrations led by the Democratic Party of Japan sailed under the slogan "politics led by politicians," but they failed to understand the true meaning of the phrase. The Abe administration must make a clear distinction between it and the DPJ administrations by making use of the bureaucracy.
We ask Abe to exploit the full potential of the Kasumigaseki bureaucrats.

The Abe Cabinet's top priority will be reviving the economy. Cabinet ministers who are expected to play a central role in this include Aso, who is deputy prime minister, finance minister and state minister for financial services; Akira Amari, state minister for economic revitalization; and Toshimitsu Motegi, the economy, trade and industry minister.

All three are known as expert policymakers and have chaired the party's Policy Research Council. We hope they will swiftly draw up effective measures to jump-start the economy.


Govt bodies to revive economy

The new administration needs to steadily raise the consumption tax rate to obtain enough revenue to fund social security programs. However, the administration must first compile a supplementary budget large enough to buoy the economy, which is showing signs of further decline.

Abe has said he will revive the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, a government panel that was idled under the DPJ, and establish a new body tentatively named Japan's economic revitalization headquarters. The prime minister must steer these two organs effectively so they can play a leading role in economic policy.

The administration of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda pledged to achieve "zero nuclear power" in the 2030s, a policy that endangers the stability of the power supply and will accelerate the hollowing-out of the domestic industrial sector. We urge the Abe administration to annul this policy and come up with practical nuclear and energy policies.

With our society graying, birthrate low and population decreasing, shrinkage of domestic demand is unavoidable for the medium term. Japan must join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework to spur economic growth.

We have high hopes that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi will play a pivotal role in enhancing the international competitiveness of the agriculture industry, a necessary part of preparing to further open the domestic market.

It is also essential for the Abe administration to improve the nation's aging infrastructure and implement disaster-management measures. Keiji Furuya, state minister for disaster management, will be in charge of "strengthening national land"--one of the key policies of the new Cabinet.

Needless to say, it should not be forgotten that the nation's finances have been seriously dependent on borrowing. The Abe Cabinet has to come up with effective methods of public investment so that we will not pass on any further heavy burdens to future generations.

To make the nation's social security system sustainable, it is inevitable to cut benefit payments. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura will be tested on handling the issue as a social security expert.

The post of foreign minister has been assumed by Fumio Kishida, a former state minister for Okinawa Prefecture affairs. Progress will not be made on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in the prefecture unless Kishida can restore trust with the prefecture, a condition that was seriously damaged by the administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama from the DPJ.

It is reasonable for Abe to appoint Kishida as foreign minister, as he is knowledgeable on situations facing Okinawa Prefecture and is said to have a relationship of trust with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima.

Named as defense minister was Itsunori Onodera, former parliamentary senior vice minister for foreign affairs.

Over the dispute on the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, China has sent not only its vessels to intrude into Japanese waters, but also an airplane to violate the nation's airspace. Dealing with China--which has been seeking to expand its economic and military might--is the Abe Cabinet's top priority in the diplomatic and security field.

The new prime minister has to establish a flexible, shrewd strategy by working closely with Kishida and Onodera.


LDP seeks to renew itself

Meanwhile, the lineup of the LDP's new party leadership is attracting attention as two of its three key executives posts have been given to women: Sanae Takaichi has been named chairwoman of the Policy Research Council, while Seiko Noda has been given the post of chairwoman of the General Council.

The appointments aim to make the two women part of the face of the party along with Shigeru Ishiba--who is being retained as secretary general and is especially popular in less urban areas--for the upcoming upper house election next summer. Abe said the changes in the LDP can be signaled by the two female members assuming the key posts.

However, such an image alone cannot help restore public confidence in the LDP. The party is urged to make further efforts and assume a humble attitude to move the nation's politics forward. Otherwise, the LDP could follow the path Abe warned of: "We'll become a cheap, old LDP as soon as we begin to rely only on party traditions."

The Diet remains divided until the next upper house election. The LDP, Komeito and the DPJ should maintain their framework of cooperation regarding the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems.

We are fed up with political indecisiveness. We hope Abe will manage his government in a different way than previous administrations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 27, 2012)
(2012年12月27日01時09分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月27日 (木)

海江田民主代表 抵抗だけの野党には戻るな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 27, 2012)
DPJ must help create beneficial policies
海江田民主代表 抵抗だけの野党には戻るな(12月26日付・読売社説)

Former economy and industry minister Banri Kaieda has emerged victorious over former land and infrastructure minister Sumio Mabuchi in the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election.

As the new DPJ leader, Kaieda is burdened with the difficult task of rebuilding the party after its crushing defeat in the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election.

The DPJ should not go back to opposing policies proposed by the ruling bloc merely for the sake of opposition. Based on its experience as a ruling party, the DPJ should cooperate with the Liberal Democratic Party and its expected coalition partner New Komeito to carry out policies that will serve national interests.

Kaieda garnered more than 60 percent of votes cast by DPJ Diet members in the presidential election. His support base grew after he secured endorsements from Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi and Policy Research Committee Chairman Goshi Hosono.

The party perhaps hopes that Kaieda, who is well-versed in economic policy, will serve as a counterweight to LDP President Shinzo Abe in his plans to put top priority on reviving the economy.

Antipathy toward leading elements of the DPJ, including the groups led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Seiji Maehara, state minister for national policy, also worked to Kaieda's advantage. When he ran in the party presidential poll that elected Noda in August last year, Kaieda received support from the group led by former party chief Ichiro Ozawa and other groups.


A test of leadership

Kaieda was criticized as unfit to lead due to flip-flopping over an agreement with the LDP and Komeito to review the DPJ's manifesto for the 2009 general election.

As economy, trade and industry minister during the Kan administration, he once became teary-eyed when he was pressed in the Diet by an opposition lawmaker.

Kaieda now must dispel these negative impressions by proving he is a strong leader.

Regarding Diet business for the moment, the DPJ needs to work with the LDP and Komeito in implementing the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems that was agreed to under the DPJ-led administration.

We find it troubling that the DPJ lawmakers who nominated Kaieda included former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and other party members who opposed raising the consumption tax rate.

Given the huge reduction in the number of DPJ lower house lawmakers, observers have pointed out that DPJ members in the House of Councillors--many of who are supported by labor unions--now have a greater voice in party affairs, which could strengthen the party's reliance on the unions.


Foster party integrity

In a news conference after being elected party president, Kaieda mentioned the need to cooperate with other opposition parties in preparation for next summer's upper house election.

In addition to appointing Goshi Hosono as secretary general to make him the party's face in the run-up to the upper house poll, Kaieda intends to build his leadership team with an eye to fostering party unity. The emphasis on solidarity is understandable, but we fear this will only continue the DPJ's bad habit of slow policy formation and decision-making.

The new party leadership must reflect on the latest lower house election and the DPJ's three years and three months in power.

The DPJ of course needs to offer alternatives to the policies proposed by the LDP-Komeito coalition, but at the same time it must deepen intraparty debate on key issues, such as the Constitution and national security. It also needs to foster a culture that encourages members to support the policies adopted by party leaders.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2012)
(2012年12月26日01時25分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

自公連立合意 TPP先送りなら国益損ねる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 27, 2012)
Delay in joining TPP talks will harm national interests
自公連立合意 TPP先送りなら国益損ねる(12月26日付・読売社説)

If the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito truly attach importance to the nation's best interests, they must not delay in deciding to participate in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade agreement.

LDP President Shinzo Abe and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi met Tuesday to sign an agreement on forming a coalition government. Their accord covers eight areas, including economic stimulus, diplomacy and security policies.

The agreement says the coalition government "will promote free trade more than ever," but on the TPP specifically it stipulates that the new administration "will pursue the course that best serves the national interests."

In their campaign platforms for the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election, both the LDP and Komeito took a cautious stance on the TPP issue. The LDP said it "opposes taking part in the TPP talks if they are premised on abolishing tariffs without exception." Komeito said it "will create an environment [in the Diet] where full deliberations can take place."

The coalition agreement is a positive development if it leaves some room for participating in the talks.

Eleven countries, including the United States and Australia, are trying to reach an agreement on the TPP by the end of next year. Japan failed to decide to join the TPP talks and fell behind Canada and Mexico.

Participating in the TPP talks would be an effective means to help the national economy grow through free trade, and strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.


No time for caution

Some LDP members are eager to enter the TPP negotiations, pushing for the incoming government to announce Japan's participation during a visit by the prime minister to the United States early next year. However, others remain cautious, calling for a decision to be delayed until after the House of Councillors election next summer out of fear that the party may lose the farm vote.

We understand the LDP wants to focus on "driving safely" at least until the upper house poll, but it must remember that inaction that could delay joining the TPP talks reduces the country's say in trade and investment rules, which could harm the national interests.

When it comes to a trade agreement, Japan can opt for pulling out of the negotiations or eventually rejecting the accord in the Diet if it is determined to go against the national interests. Assuming only bad scenarios even before joining the talks is not constructive. We urge the incoming government to announce at an early date that Japan will join the TPP negotiations.


Keep taxes simple

The coalition agreement states that discussions will be held on introducing reduced tax rates for food and other necessities as a measure to help low-income earners when the planned consumption tax hike goes into effect. This was a concession by the LDP to Komeito.

Such a system is simpler and clearer, as well as easier to understand than the Japanese version of the earned income tax credit proposed by the Democratic Party of Japan-led administraion. Applying the reduced tax rates to newspapers and books would help protect intellectual culture. We urge the LDP and Komeito to discuss and overcome problems such as how to decide what items should be subject to reduced tax rates.

On nuclear energy policy, the coalition agreement did not adopt the "zero-nuclear policy," which was in Komeito's election pledges, but instead called for the use of nuclear power for the time being. It said the coalition government "will reduce the nation's dependence on nuclear power plants."

We commend the agreement for its realism, which will allow nuclear reactors to be reactivated once they have been confirmed safe.

Abe has said he would review the DPJ-led administration's policy of not approving the construction of new nuclear power plants. It is essential to minimize negative impacts on the economy and employment, while also ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2012)
(2012年12月26日01時25分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)



1) 貸金業に登録されている会社かどうか確認する(大手の場合には不要です)
2) 貸付金利が法定金利の内側にあるかどうか確認する
3) 返済期間と返済計画の確認




| | コメント (0)

2012年12月26日 (水)

結婚は幸せの分岐点 結婚式の記念写真なら川崎のシモムラです








結婚式の記念写真なら シモムラをお勧めいたします。

| | コメント (0)

格安航空会社 安全と信頼が飛躍につながる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 26, 2012)
Budget airlines will grow through safety, quality
格安航空会社 安全と信頼が飛躍につながる(12月25日付・読売社説)

This year saw a flock of domestic low-cost carriers take to the skies. The budget airlines are fast becoming a presence in the air-travel market.

Thanks in part to their success in attracting customers who had never boarded a plane before, the acronym LCC was selected as one of the top buzzwords of the year.

The growth of budget airlines will prompt the high-cost aviation industry to become more efficient, while at the same time helping to stimulate the economy by bringing in tourists from other Asian countries where travel demand is strong. We sincerely hope these airlines will continue making giant leaps forward.

Peach Aviation, a subsidiary of All Nippon Airways based at Kansai Airport, has flown more than 1 million passengers since its launch in March.

This summer saw the inauguration of two more domestic low-cost carriers, both based at Narita Airport--AirAsia Japan, a subsidiary of All Nippon Airways, and Jetstar Japan, partly owned by Japan Airlines.


Low fares=packed flights

These low-cost carriers marked passenger occupancy rates around 90 percent during the Bon holiday period, exceeding the two major airlines JAL and ANA, which saw occupancy rates down to the 70 percent level. Seats on LCCs are reportedly almost all booked up for the New Year holiday season.

The success of the budget carriers probably stems from having attracted such customers as students, elderly people and women with fares that are sometimes less than half what the major airlines charge.

We salute the low-cost airlines for proving they can create demand by combining safety and reasonable prices.

Nevertheless, the low-cost carriers still account for only about 3 percent of the nation's total passenger volume. Compared with their counterparts in the United States and Europe, which have about 30 percent, Japan's budget carriers still lag far behind.

Low-cost carriers need to expand their business efforts. Since restricting themselves to domestic routes will limit their growth, it is important for them to expand their services abroad.

We salute the business strategies of Peach Aviation and AirAsia Japan, which added flights to other Asian countries this autumn.

LCCs also need to improve the quality of their flight services while maintaining safety and improving on-time rates. Making sure they have enough pilots will also be important.

Each low-cost carrier needs to strengthen passenger trust so their current popularity does not end up being just another short-lived boom.


Airports have role, too

To support the popularization of low-cost carriers, it is also important to review how airports are managed by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, and other related entities.

Kansai and Naha airports have opened terminals exclusively for low-cost carriers that charge reasonable fees. However, many analysts agree that the costly new facility at Narita Airport to open in fiscal 2014 is excessively luxurious. The operator of Narita needs to consider lowering its usage and landing fees, which are relatively high compared to airports overseas.

Narita Airport can only be used between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. due to noise control measures. For low-cost carriers, which continually fly a limited number of airplanes, one delay can easily lead to others. This year, budget airlines were forced to cancel several flights because they could not make it to Narita before 11 p.m.

The transport ministry has proposed expanding the operating hours of Narita by one hour later at night and one hour earlier in the morning. We hope this plan can be implemented as soon as possible by reaching an agreement with local governments and residents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2012)
(2012年12月25日01時17分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

健保財政悪化 医療費負担の世代格差是正を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 26, 2012)
Intergenerational fairness in medical expenses needed
健保財政悪化 医療費負担の世代格差是正を(12月25日付・読売社説)

The fiscal conditions of public health insurance programs for corporate employees have worsened, resulting in an increase in insurance premiums. This is attributable to the huge expense in providing medical services for elderly people. The working generation should not have to bear an even heavier burden.

Medical expenses for people aged 65 or older are covered by premiums and medical fees paid by elderly people themselves, as well as contributions from public coffers, health insurance societies and other entities. The contributions rose sharply with the launch of a new health care system for elderly people in 2008, causing many health insurance societies to fall into the red.

Due to this dire financial situation, health insurance societies have no choice but to raise insurance premiums shouldered both by employers and employees. The Japan Health Insurance Association (Kyokai Kempo), to which employees of small and midsize companies belong, has raised the premium rate from 8.2 percent to 10 percent. Health insurance societies of larger companies also raised their rates from a range of between 7 percent and 8 percent to an average 8.3 percent.

Baby boomers began turning 65 this year, and medical expenses for elderly people are expected to grow. There are fears that premium rates will continue to be raised endlessly.


Heavier burden for elderly

This would impose a heavy burden on corporate managements and slash the net wages of employees, with the resulting adverse effects on the nation's economy and consumption.

To prevent this from happening, we believe it is inevitable to have senior citizens shoulder a more appropriate portion of the burden.

Fees paid at medical institutions by patients aged 70 to 74 are set by law at 20 percent of their medical bills, but in reality remain at 10 percent. This is attributable to the government response to harsh criticism from then opposition Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and others on the newly introduced health insurance system for those aged 75 or older. The opposition at that time used the new system for their own political benefits, criticizing it as "ubasuteyama," a folklore term meaning abandonment of old people in the mountains.

Such criticism missed the point as the new system was designed to have the working generation bear much of the expense. However, then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's Cabinet, fearing a backlash from elderly people, took special measures to keep the level of the burden on those aged 70 to 74 the same as for those 75 or older.

We suggest the special measures be abolished, so those aged 70 to 74 pay 20 percent of their medical expenses at medical institutions as stipulated by law. Consideration also should be given to raising the current 10 percent of the burden paid by those aged 75 or older at medical institutions.

What is important is to curb the continuing rise in medical spending.


Introduce medical data system

A number of elderly people who suffer from more than one illness visit many medical specialists, resulting in a duplication in consultations, tests and medication in many cases.

We think information on individual patients that is maintained by each medical institution should be collected under a unified management system so overlapping medical services can be eliminated. We also suggest the early introduction of a new personal identification number system, called My Number. It is indispensable to nurture general medical practitioners who can treat a variety of diseases so that duplicating medical examinations can be avoided.

Drug costs also should be reduced by using, in principle, cheaper generic drugs.

The policy pledges of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, which are set to return to power, included such proposals as making medical treatment for young children free, which would result in further increases in medical spending. We are concerned these measures will make the current health insurance system unsustainable.

Given the graying of society, it is inevitable to increase public spending on medicine for elderly people. To secure fiscal resources, increases in the consumption tax rate must proceed as planned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2012)
(2012年12月25日01時17分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月25日 (火)

「普天間」評価書 政権交代を機に移設を進めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 25, 2012)
Seize the change of govt to push relocation issue
「普天間」評価書 政権交代を機に移設を進めよ(12月24日付・読売社説)

By taking advantage of a change of government, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito should do their utmost to advance the stalled relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station.

The Defense Ministry has finished revising its report on its environmental impact assessment in preparation for relocating the station's functions to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture and submitted it to the Okinawa prefectural government.

The report was revised in response to the written opinion of Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on the relocation to Henoko. The governor's opinion listed 579 points.

While adding assessments based on the latest survey on marine life, the ministry wrote that it would take the best environmental protection measures possible.

It can be said that the ministry's report responded thoroughly to the huge number of requests made by the governor.

Following the public announcement of its report later, the ministry will be able to apply to the prefectural government for approval to begin reclamation work for the construction of an air base to replace Futenma Air Station.

LDP President Shinzo Abe, who is certain to become the next prime minister, said he would like to make efforts to win the understanding of local governments and residents on the relocation plan.


Prospect dim for early solution

Nakaima said earlier the relocation would be impossible without local understanding. As it stands, there is no prospect for the ministry to win the governor's permission to carry out the reclamation work.

Nakaima had approved relocation to the Henoko district until the gubernatorial election in November 2010. He later shifted his stance to call for "relocation outside the prefecture," but he has not publicly declared objections to the relocation plan.

The incoming coalition government of the LDP and Komeito must reestablish a relationship of trust with the Okinawa prefectural government, which has been greatly damaged by the maladministration of the Democratic Party of Japan, and persuade Nakaima to approve the relocation plan.

To relocate the air station from the densely populated area of Ginowan to a sparsely inhabited area of Henoko would greatly reduce the burden on Okinawa of hosting U.S. bases.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine opposes the relocation plan, but some local communities around Henoko approve of the plan, which is significant.

If the Henoko relocation plan is realized, it will be possible to make effective use of the vacated air station, and to take various measures to promote the local economy. If the plan is abandoned, however, the currently dangerous situation in Ginowan is certain to continue for a long time.


Accident impact less

The safety of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, newly deployed at Futenma Air Station, has been confirmed. But if an accident involving the new transport aircraft occurred, it is obvious the resulting damage to the coastal district of Henoko would be smaller than the impact of a similar accident in the urban area of Ginowan.

Solving the issue, which has been pending since the 1996 Japan-U.S. accord on the relocation, would greatly contribute to the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the importance of which is growing against the backdrop of China's military buildup and other developments.

We hope Nakaima will comprehensively consider these factors.

The important thing is for the central government to create an atmosphere in which the governor will find it easier to permit the reclamation work.

First of all, the LDP and Komeito need to persuade their prefectural organizations and their locally elected Diet members calling for "relocating the facility outside the prefecture" to change their stance, thus increasing local understanding on the Henoko relocation.

It is also vital to deal with the problem of local assembly members of Nago who are split over the relocation issue, and to make efforts to rebuild the cooperative relationship with Okinawa Prefecture, including expanded measures to promote the local economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2012)
(2012年12月24日01時20分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

衆院小選挙区制 得票と議席の差が開き過ぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 25, 2012)
Electoral system needs sweeping, objective reform
衆院小選挙区制 得票と議席の差が開き過ぎる(12月24日付・読売社説)

How should the representatives of the people be elected? We believe the current electoral system is in need of drastic reform based on the results of the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election.

During policy talks ahead of forming a coalition government, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed on major reforms to the electoral system of the lower house, including reducing the number of seats. Their plan is based on an accord made with the Democratic Party of Japan before the election. Deliberations on the reform package will begin in the ordinary Diet session to be convened next month.

With the current system comprising both single-seat constituencies and proportional representation blocs, the first task will be to sort out the problems associated with this structure.

The general elections of 2005, 2009 and 2012 all resulted in the party that won a plurality gaining about 300 seats--an overwhelming margin over the other parties.

In the 300 single-seat constituencies this time, the LDP received 1.9 times more votes than the DPJ but ended up with 8.8 times more seats. Although this is a hallmark of the single-seat constituency system, many voters likely felt uneasy about this huge gap between votes and seats.


Big swings

The single-seat constituency system was supposed to help facilitate the creation of stable governments through a simple method of expressing the preference of the majority of voters.

However, the last three general elections have resulted in big swings in the distribution of seats among the parties. The system puts ruling parties at a bigger risk of being swept out of power in a general election if they lose support from only a few voters.

This discourages ruling parties from presenting clear policies on divisive issues due to fear of a backlash from certain voting blocs or special-interest groups.

One such example from the last election is the failure of both the LDP and the DPJ to take a clear stand on whether Japan should take part in the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.

The system also has led to the mass election of new faces supported by influential politicians--referred to scornfully as "children" or "girls"--only to see these same lawmakers lose in large numbers in the next poll.

Even in districts where the competition is not especially fierce, lawmakers are forced to spend much of their time campaigning locally, thereby ignoring the national scene.

Lawmakers who are elected from proportional representation blocs or who have weak support bases tend to trumpet populist policies. Doing this only to win elections has led to political chaos.


Reform should not be partisan

Politicians only become skilled in dealing with the bureaucracy after they deepen their knowledge of governing through several terms in office. However, the current electoral system only hampers the realization of politics led by politicians.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was defeated in his single-seat constituency but was able to retain his seat as he was elected from a proportional representation bloc for which he had also filed his candidacy. It is hard to accept the existence of such a double candidacy.

These problems have led some ruling and opposition party lawmakers to call for reinstating multiple-seat constituencies. Their voices should not be ignored.

Electoral reforms necessarily involve partisan interests, so the issue should be discussed objectively by experts, not political parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2012)
(2012年12月24日01時20分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月24日 (月)

エレベーター 保守点検の徹底で事故を防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 24, 2012)
Tougher inspections needed to ensure elevator safety
エレベーター 保守点検の徹底で事故を防げ(12月23日付・読売社説)

Every possible safety measure must be taken to ensure people can use elevators without worry in office buildings, condominiums and other structures.

On Wednesday, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry announced the findings of its emergency inspections of 84 Schindler Elevator K.K. elevators across the country, which were all the same type as the one involved in a fatal accident at a Kanazawa hotel earlier this year.

Of the 84, brake parts in six were found to have been inappropriately adjusted, which can cause an elevator to suddenly ascend, according to ministry officials.

The sensors on two of the six elevators' braking systems were disconnected, the officials noted.

The ministry's inspections revealed how sloppy maintenance and inspection services of Schindler's elevators were. It is questionable whether Schindler appropriately instructed maintenance and inspection subcontractors.

What triggered the emergency inspections by the ministry was an accident at the Kanazawa hotel in October in which a female cleaner was fatally crushed by an elevator after stumbling and falling partway into it.


8,000 Schindler elevators

The accident was attributed to a sharp, sudden ascent of the elevator, presumably because of abnormalities in brake pads, which are designed to keep the elevator in place.

Why was the brake system flawed? Were there any problems with Schindler's inspection services?

The Ishikawa prefectural police headquarters and an expert team of the infrastructure ministry must do their utmost to elucidate the causes of the accident.

The elevator that caused an accident in 2006 in which a second-year high school boy was killed at a residential apartment complex in Minato Ward, Tokyo, was also a Schindler product. It was the same type as the one in the Kanazawa hotel.

There are 8,000 Schindler-made elevators other than the type in question throughout the country. Many Schindler elevators have been installed at such establishments as railway stations and commercial buildings. The ministry says it plans to inspect all Schindler elevators.

As there is no reason to conclude the brake abnormalities are limited to the elevators involved in the accidents, all Schindler elevators without exception should be swiftly examined.

Accidents have also been taking place one after another involving elevators other than Schindler's.

In 2009, a man fell to his death when the door of an elevator opened before the car stopped at a building in Shinjuku, Tokyo.


Auxiliary brakes lacking

Police sent papers to the prosecution on a worker and persons in charge of inspecting and maintaining the elevator on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death for allegedly failing to take effective steps to prevent the accident while knowing the elevator may have been unsafe.

After the accident in Minato Ward, the ministry revised the enforcement regulations of the Building Standards Law, making it obligatory to equip elevators with an auxiliary brake.

Because elevators installed before the revision are not subject to the requirement, about 700,000 elevators without auxiliary brakes remain in operation across the country. The one involved in the fatal accident in Shinjuku was one of them.

It may be very hard for businesses and other owners of elevators to replace them, because of the expense and other problems.

Regarding older elevator models, it is extremely important to prevent operational problems by means of especially thorough maintenance and inspections.

By drawing precious lessons from accidents, elevator manufacturers, inspection and maintenance companies and building management firms should redouble their efforts to prevent a recurrence of accidents by bearing in mind that their negligence could deprive elevator users of their lives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 23, 2012)
(2012年12月23日01時31分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

米財政の崖 大統領と議会は回避へ合意を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 24, 2012)
Obama, U.S. Congress must strike deal to avoid 'fiscal cliff'
米財政の崖 大統領と議会は回避へ合意を(12月23日付・読売社説)

Will the United States be able to avoid tumbling off the so-called fiscal cliff, which could lead to a drastic fiscal contraction and economic slowdown? We urge both President Barack Obama and Congress to compromise to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

In the last round of negotiations, the two sides abandoned their effort to resolve the problem before Christmas, which had been set as the deadline for a settlement. They plan to resume talks on Wednesday at the earliest.

The negotiations are expected to continue until the end of the year, but it remains to be seen if the two sides will be able to strike a deal by then. There are pessimistic predictions that the negotiations will go into next year, which we consider a terrible development.

The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of tax cuts introduced during former President George W. Bush's administration and mandatory spending cuts that will kick in Jan. 1.

Failure to reach an agreement this year could result in a fiscal contraction of up to 503 billion dollars (about 42 trillion yen) a year, pushing down real gross domestic product growth by about 3 percent.

In that event, the U.S. economy would almost certainly enter a recession, which would deal a serious blow to Japan and the rest of the global economy. It is natural there are growing concerns on the New York Stock Exchange and elsewhere.


Taxing the wealthy

The biggest sticking point in the talks are tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Among the tax cuts introduced by Bush, Obama has consistently called for ending tax cuts for wealthy households earning more than 250,000 dollars (about 21 million yen) during and after the presidential campaign. This is aimed at focusing tax cuts on the middle-class and reducing fiscal deficits.

The Republicans, however, oppose tax hikes on the wealthy, calling instead for extending across-the-board tax cuts.

Obama recently offered a compromise by proposing higher tax rates for Americans making more than 400,000 dollars, which is seen as a positive sign. The proposal is commendable as it shows his willingness to bring the stalled negotiations to a close.


GOP softens stance

Republicans have also softened their stance, putting forward a plan to allow taxes to rise only on households making more than 1 million dollars a year. However, some party members still strongly oppose raising taxes for any high-income earners.

Although their positions are still wide apart, we hope both sides will compromise.

The president and Republicans are also at odds over the scale of spending cuts in social security and other fields. In summer last year, the U.S. government managed to raise the federal debt limit. As the federal debt is likely to reach that limit as early as the beginning of next year, this problem has become another focus of attention.

Some people are calling on the president and Congress to reach a "small deal," under which the two parties will initially compromise on certain points. This proposal is worth considering to avert the worst.

The U.S. fiscal deficit has topped 1 trillion dollars for four consecutive years, the nation's unemployment hovers at a high level and economic recovery has been delayed.

In January, Obama will start serving his second term, and a newly elected Congress will take office. But the country still must confront the difficult challenges of realizing thorough fiscal reconstruction and economic growth at the same time.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 23, 2012)
(2012年12月23日01時31分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)




昨年の12月22日、クリスマスプレゼントとして「クリスマスプレゼント オンラインカジノゲーム」をプレゼントしました。





● 完全無料のミニバカラゲームはこちらです。



| | コメント (0)

2012年12月23日 (日)

原発と活断層 規制委は説明責任を果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 23, 2012)
Nuclear Regulation Authority too hasty in evaluating faults?
原発と活断層 規制委は説明責任を果たせ(12月22日付・読売社説)

A Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) expert team has announced its view that crush zones on the premises of the Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture are active faults that could cause earthquakes.

In light of this view, restarting the plant's reactor early now appears to be difficult.

This is a serious matter for Tohoku Electric Power Co., the operator of the nuclear power plant, as it had put its hopes on the restart as the key to recovering its power supply capacity after suffering extensive damage to its facilities from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The faults in question extend along the plant site, coming as close to the reactor as 200 meters. Tohoku Electric had asserted they were formed after layers slipped due to changes in underground water levels. However, the five-member team of experts led by Kunihiko Shimazaki, acting chairman of the NRA, unanimously dismissed the utility's assertion.

If the faults move in the way the team has predicted, the reactor's safety equipment would inevitably be undermined.

Nothing is more important than securing the safety of the reactor. Tohoku Electric likely will be urged to thoroughly conduct research and risk assessments as well as to drastically review the seismic resistance of the reactor and other nuclear facilities. Such an overhaul could force the company to carry out reinforcement work, depending on the results of further surveys.


Stable power supply also needed

In the meantime, Tohoku Electric needs to make every effort to secure a stable power supply so as not to disrupt people's daily lives and business activities.

On Dec. 10, the expert team reached an agreement that a crush zone directly under a reactor of the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., is highly likely to be an active fault. In such a case, the reactor could be ordered to be decommissioned, but no such active fault has been found directly under the reactor at the Higashidori plant.

Dissatisfied with the expert team's view, Tohoku Electric reportedly intends to make counterarguments.

In addition to faults on the premises of the Higashidori plant, the team has also warned that a huge peripheral fault, more than 80 kilometers long in the nearby seabed, could be active.

If this fault moves, the whole Shimokita Peninsula where the plant is located could be affected. Discussions are likely to be sparked also over the quake resistance of Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s Rokkasho plant for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.


Seismology not perfect

Meanwhile, we must not forget that seismology is an immature field. Due consideration is needed over whether the NRA should launch full-fledged research.

Risk assessments of faults in and near nuclear power plants will affect respective regional economies and local residents' lives. People have indeed been increasingly vocal in expressing such concerns.

The regulatory body has the responsibility to explain how its expert team conducted research and evaluated findings in detail, but its efforts have been far from satisfactory in this regard.

The NRA has yet to compile the team's risk assessments in writing. Only information materials full of jargon and video footage showing experts' discussions have been made public.

Furthermore, it can be said that the NRA failed to spend enough time exchanging opinions with the utilities concerned and appeared to make assertions one-sidedly.

The authority is guaranteed its independence. However, it cannot win public trust with a self-righteous approach.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2012)
(2012年12月22日01時04分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

ゴラン高原撤収 意義深かった17年間のPKO

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 23, 2012)
17-year SDF Golan mission played significant role
ゴラン高原撤収 意義深かった17年間のPKO(12月22日付・読売社説)

The Self-Defense Forces have played a significant role in the U.N. peace-keeping operation in the Golan Heights, although it has not attracted much attention recently. The SDF has been working for the U.N. mission at the border between Israel and Syria for 17 years, the longest mission since the government first dispatched SDF personnel to a U.N. peace-keeping operation two decades ago.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on Friday ordered members of the Ground Self-Defense Force transportation unit who were dispatched to the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights to withdraw to Japan. The government decided on the pullout because the civil war between Syrian government forces and insurgents has intensified recently, making it impossible to strike a balance between securing the safety of GSDF personnel and doing substantial work in the mission.

Deteriorating security forced the Japanese Embassy in Syria to close down in March and has limited activities of GSDF members in UNDOF. For instance, the GSDF has used a private company to do part of its transport work since June. In another sign of worsening security, Austrian soldiers in UNDOF recently came under attack.


GSDF pullout inevitable

We understand the government decided to bring the GSDF unit home due to circumstances beyond its control.

In December 1995, the government decided to send GSDF members to join the U.N. mission on the border between the two Middle Eastern countries.

GSDF members have been in charge of transporting daily necessities between Damascus, the capital of Syria, and the area of separation, a kind of buffer zone between the two nations, and repairing roads and clearing snow in the area. They are replaced every six months. Currently, 44 members of the GSDF transport unit are with UNDOF in addition to three members assigned to its command.

GSDF activities in the Golan Heights have constituted part of the U.N. ceasefire monitoring to keep peace in the Middle East and at the same time played the role of a "PKO school," preparing SDF members for other international operations contributing to peace.

SDF members will be able to work for international cooperation under more difficult circumstances because of their experience in the U.N. mission in the Golan Heights. They have deepened their own understanding of peace-keeping operations and interacted with PKO members from other countries. Over the 17 years, a total of 1,500 SDF members have been dispatched to the Golan Heights.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Japan's first participation in a U.N. peace-keeping operation. Since then, a total of 9,200 SDF members have participated in peace-keeping missions. With a greater number of its members who have experienced international operations, the SDF could enhance partnerships and cooperative relations with armed forces in other countries and improve its own abilities to cope with emergencies.


Relax rules on weapons use

The GSDF now in Haiti is also scheduled to pull out by next spring. Since 2010, the GSDF unit has helped restore damage caused to the country by a major earthquake that occurred in the same year. When it returns to Japan, the unit will leave behind 14 heavy machines it used for the Haitian government.

The machines include four with gun mounts, which in the past could not have been handed over to other countries because they were considered arms. However, the offer of the machines became possible after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet relaxed the government's three principles on arms exports at the end of last year. We think Japan should proactively supply what were considered arms in the past to other countries in the future for such peace-building and humanitarian purposes.

Meanwhile, the GSDF is still working for a U.N. peace-keeping operation in South Sudan. We urge the government to relax tight restrictions imposed on SDF members' use of weapons. The current law allows them to use weapons exclusively for self-defense purposes, preventing SDF members from working effectively in U.N. missions. The law should be revised to enable the SDF to rush to the defense of PKO members of other countries or civilians facing hostilities and save them by using weapons if necessary.

We expect the new government to be formed next week to again tackle revision of the U.N. Peacekeeping Cooperation Law, an effort that has repeatedly failed in the past.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2012)
(2012年12月22日01時04分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月22日 (土)

惨敗民主党 真摯な総括なしに再生はない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 21, 2012)
DPJ must begin by assessing reasons for its brutal drubbing
惨敗民主党 真摯な総括なしに再生はない(12月20日付・読売社説)

Will the Democratic Party of Japan really be able to start over from scratch? Putting the party back on track will be an arduous task.

The DPJ has postponed its election of a new leader to succeed outgoing party President Yoshihiko Noda, which was scheduled for this Saturday. Noda, who also serves as the nation's prime minister, expressed his intention to resign as party president after the DPJ suffered a humiliating defeat in Sunday's general election.

Following Noda's remarks, the party leadership initially thought it needed to establish a new party regime before the special Diet session, which convenes next Wednesday. We'll hazard a guess that the party also wished to display its new standard-bearer to the public from the New Year, with an eye toward next summer's House of Councillors election.

However, many DPJ members voiced opposition to the schedule during Wednesday's general meeting of the party's Diet members, saying it is too early to choose a new leader without assessing and reflecting on the defeat and the party's faulty handling of the government.


Face similar fate next summer?

Such voices reflect concern that the party will likely meet a similar fate next summer unless it examines the cause of Sunday's defeat by listening to the opinions of party members who lost in the House of Representatives election as well as the voices of local party chapters.

This concern is fair enough. In the end, we believe it was unavoidable for the DPJ to postpone the presidential election. Just changing the face of the party will not be enough to put the party back on its feet. After reflecting on the loss wholeheartedly, the party should make all necessary arrangements for the presidential election. These steps should be taken quickly.

The number of DPJ seats in the lower house has plunged to 57. However, this number is still the highest among opposition parties. The DPJ will now bear the duty of checking the Liberal Democratic Party, which has become a gigantic ruling party after winning Sunday's election. People also hope the DPJ will play a key part in conducting productive policy debate in the Diet.

To do so, the DPJ must establish a stable internal regime. If it fails, the party may be supplanted as the LDP's main rival by Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which won 54 seats in Sunday's election.

DPJ members have begun whispering the names of possible candidates for the presidential election, such as Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada; Goshi Hosono, the party's Policy Research Committee chairman; and Sumio Mabuchi, acting chairman of the committee. We wonder why none of the party members have the courage to announce their own candidacy for the presidential race at this stage.


True reason for the loss

After losing her lower house seat, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Makiko Tanaka harshly criticized Noda for dissolving the lower house. "[The dissolution] was just for the prime minister's self-satisfaction. I predicted we would lose miserably [in the election] due to his 'suicide bombing.'"

It is surprising that Tanaka has already forgotten that she herself took part in ruining the reputation of the Noda administration by causing confusion through her rejection of applications to open three universities next spring, which she later retracted.

Tanaka's attitude reflects the DPJ's notorious habit of being blind to its failures and shifting responsibility to others.

According to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll, the number of respondents who chose "lack of unity among DPJ party members" as the main cause of the party's defeat in the general election was the highest, with 51 percent supporting the answer. It was followed by "[public] disappointment with the results of the DPJ administrations" with 21 percent. Only 4 percent chose "disappointment with Prime Minister [Yoshihiko] Noda" as the main reason for the loss.

The DPJ has had a tendency to put off party discussions on important policies as much as possible. Even in cases in which the party was able to draw a conclusion after long discussions, some members brought up the issues again, restarting debate within the party. Such confusion, apparent during the DPJ administrations, was hardly the behavior of a ruling party. No wonder the party failed to achieve tangible results.

Along with reflecting on the loss in the general election, the party must consider drawing up a new party platform and holding discussions on important issues such as amending the Constitution. Such activities will contribute to setting the party's policy direction firmly, and enhance solidarity within the party.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 20, 2012)
(2012年12月20日01時57分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

国際学力調査 理数好きになる授業の工夫を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 21, 2012)
Teachers should work hard to help kids enjoy science, math
国際学力調査 理数好きになる授業の工夫を(12月20日付・読売社説)

The results of an international survey on children's performance in mathematics and science are cause for concern for Japan, as the nation aims to develop human resources to help it continue to thrive on scientific and technological advances.

In the the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)--conducted on fourth-grade primary school students and second-year middle school students in Japan and the equivalent grades overseas--Japanese students showed some signs of improvement. However, it also found their enthusiasm for studying the two subjects was below international averages.

There has been increased interest in science since Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year. Education officials should not miss this chance to help children learn to enjoy studying math and science and improve the methodology of teaching the subjects at schools.

The TIMSS is conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. In the latest survey, fourth-graders from 50 countries and territories and eighth-graders (second-year middle school students) from 42 nations and regions participated.

Japanese students at both grade levels maintained high positions, ranking fifth in math and fourth in science. The average scores of the fourth-graders were more than 10 points higher in both subjects compared to the previous survey.


Strength of new curriculums

For science and math classes at primary and middle schools, beefed-up curriculums--compiled in counterreaction to the "cram-free" education policy--were put in place from April 2009, ahead of the full-fledged implementation of new curriculums for all subjects. Under the revised curriculums, not only have the content and number of classes been increased for the two subjects, but more importance is being placed on reviewing what has been learned, as well as experimenting and observing.

These efforts can be given some credit for the Japanese students' improved performance in the latest TIMSS survey.

However, the survey's questions on what children thought of science and math found that the ratios of the Japanese primary and middle school participants who said they liked learning the subjects were lower than international averages. The figures for the older student group, in particular, were ominous--39 percent for math and 53 percent for science, both of which are more than 20 points below international averages.

Only 18 percent of the Japanese middle school students said they would like to get a job related to math, while the figure stood only at 20 percent for science.

We wonder if teachers can help their students take to heart how interesting it is to study science and math, as well as understand how useful the things they are studying will be in the real world.


Troubling teacher turnover

A large number of experienced teachers are now reaching mandatory retirement age, while those educated under the cram-free education policy are entering the profession. It is said that many younger teachers are not accustomed to handling tools for experiments and they lack confidence in teaching science.

There is an effective program under which the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry dispatches postgraduate students and retired teachers to schools to help with science experiments. The Democratic Party of Japan-led government marked the project to be scrapped during budget screening, but it is reasonable for the ministry to have decided to continue the program for the next school year and beyond.

Teacher-training colleges have to make sure prospective teachers have the skills to teach science and math. Boards of education, which are responsible for training in-service teachers, have the same responsibility.

In recent years, an increasing number of companies have been dispatching their employees to schools to conduct classes for children as part of their social action programs. When company employees and researchers working at the cutting edge of science technology discuss how useful studying science and math is, their words will surely stick in children's minds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 20, 2012)
(2012年12月20日01時57分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

物価目標検討 政府・日銀はデフレ脱却急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 22, 2012)
Govt, BOJ must move quickly to defeat deflation
物価目標検討 政府・日銀はデフレ脱却急げ(12月21日付・読売社説)

The inauguration of a Liberal Democratic Party-led government next week will mark the first step for the government and the Bank of Japan to close ranks and work toward leading Japan out of deflation.

The central bank decided Thursday to look into the possibility of introducing an inflation target.

At a news conference the same day, Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa said he would make a final decision on the matter in January. He said the central bank had decided to study the matter in response to a request from LDP President Shinzo Abe.

Currently, the central bank is aiming for a 1 percent inflation target but this goal is not set in stone.

Abe had called for the government and the central bank to reach an accord on a 2 percent inflation target and implement drastic monetary easing policies.

The central bank should be praised for responding promptly and deciding to study setting an inflation target.

The bank has also decided on an additional monetary easing package worth 10 trillion yen. As a result, the bank's fund to purchase government bonds and other assets will exceed 100 trillion yen.

The slowdown of foreign economies and worsening of relations with China have reduced exports and production, making domestic business more sluggish.


Prompt decision praiseworthy

The Bank of Japan was correct in promptly deciding on additional monetary easing measures to follow up those decided in September and October.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average has surged back to the 10,000 yen level due to high expectations for the incoming administration led by Abe, who is aggressive about pump-priming measures.

Of course, monetary policy alone is not enough to defeat deflation and achieve an economic recovery. The key is for the government and the central bank to conclude pragmatic policy accords.

We hope they will coordinate their efforts expeditiously after the launch of the new government.

It will be necessary to restore a process that allows funds made available as a result of monetary easing to be used as loans for plant and equipment investments to expand both corporate profits and jobs.

The government is primarily responsible for undertaking this task. First and foremost, it will be essential to resolve as soon as possible the shortage in demand, which is one cause of deflation.


Big stimulus package vital

Immediate results can be expected from the implementation of such urgent public works projects as repairs to aging infrastructure and improvement of antidisaster capabilities. It is indispensable to carry out a large-scale economic stimulus package after compiling a supplementary budget.

Issuing a certain amount of additional government bonds will be unavoidable to secure fiscal resources but this should be done without causing the fiscal balance to deteriorate further.

In formulating the budget for fiscal 2013 starting in April, it will be imperative to significantly cut back on spending programs initiated under the handout policies of the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration.

It also will be essential to expand measures to assist corporate activities, including tax breaks for investment in growth fields, lowering the corporate tax and reviewing regulations detrimental to start-up businesses.

To keep the Bank of Japan on the defensive, the LDP and others have threatened to revise the Bank of Japan Law and hints have been dropped in connection with the bank's next governor.

However, if the bank's independence is undermined, it may lower confidence in Japan's monetary system and government bonds and spread disarray throughout the financial markets. Excessive political pressure must be avoided.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2012)
(2012年12月21日01時29分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

女性大統領誕生 未来見据えた日韓関係構築を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 22, 2012)
S. Korea's new president must seek future-oriented ties with Japan
女性大統領誕生 未来見据えた日韓関係構築を(12月21日付・読売社説)

South Koreans have chosen their country's first female president. We hope she will break through new frontiers and exercise leadership in such matters as revitalization of the country's economy and rebuilding relations with Japan.

Park Geun Hye of the ruling Saenuri Party was elected in a closely fought presidential election, defeating rival candidate Moon Jae In of the Democratic United Party, the largest opposition party.

The key issues during the election campaign were economic problems, including measures to reduce the widening income gap and unemployment.

While Moon emphasized tighter control over family-run conglomerates, Park placed weight on economic growth and securing employment for young people.

We can safely conclude South Korean voters chose economic growth and more employment, rather than restricting the activities of major corporations, which are the locomotive of the country's exports.


Small business measures key

South Korea is now among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of trade volume, due partly to its efforts to promote free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union and others. However, this has not resulted in an increase of jobs. Reinforcing and nurturing small and midsize enterprises, which are crucial to employment, are important issues.

There were also great differences in the approaches of the two candidates to North Korea.

Moon pledged to unconditionally restart large-scale food and fertilizer assistance programs to the North and have summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, next year. His policy is a return to the "sunshine policy" pursued by left-wing administrations.

In contrast, conservative Park also showed a willingness to reopen dialogue with North Korea, but said full-fledged assistance programs must come after a relationship of trust had been built up between the two countries. Her policy follows the footsteps of the current administration, which has demanded that North Korea take concrete actions to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is still pursuing its nuclear and missile development programs, as was seen in the recent launch of a long-range ballistic missile despite calls by the international community to cancel it.

The victory of Park, who has vowed to take a stern attitude toward North Korea through cooperation among Japan, South Korea and the United States, is a welcome development for Japan.


Repair bilateral ties

Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung Hee, who braved strong opposition within the country to normalize relations with Japan in 1965 and led the country on a rapid economic growth path, dubbed the "Miracle of the Hanggang river." During the election campaign, Park gave prominence to relations with Japan, including the conclusion of an economic partnership agreement.

Many issues are common to both Japan and South Korea, such as low birthrates and aging populations as well the handling of North Korea and China, which is expanding economically and militarily.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe congratulated Park on her victory. "I hope to deepen bilateral relations further from a broad perspective by maintaining close contacts," said Abe, whose administration will be launched next week.

We hope the two incoming leaders will initially work toward repairing the Japan-South Korean relationship, which deteriorated to the worst-ever level when President Lee Myung Bak visited the Takeshima islands and demanded for an "apology by the Emperor" to victims of Japan's past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Of course, there is little ground for optimism, but they need to make efforts to avoid issues of history from negatively impacting on the two nations any further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2012)
(2012年12月21日01時29分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月20日 (木)

自公連立協議 現実的な原発政策を掲げよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 20, 2012)
LDP, Komeito need to present realistic nuclear power policy
自公連立協議 現実的な原発政策を掲げよ(12月19日付・読売社説)

If the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito are to form a coalition government, it is a matter of course that they will have to make adjustments on important policies as much as possible to prevent discord within the cabinet.

LDP President Shinzo Abe and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi met Tuesday to launch a series of policy consultations ahead of the inauguration of the second Abe Cabinet next week.

To begin with, they agreed to compile a large supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 to serve as temporary economic stimulus.

LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Akira Amari and Komeito Policy Research Council Chairman Keiichi Ishii are expected to hammer out the details for the budget ahead of an official accord by the end of the week.


Economy a proper priority

The country desperately needs to be lifted out of deflation. The incoming administration is right in its decision to give top priority to economic reconstruction as a symbol of its efforts to move politics forward.

Komeito supports a supplementary budget to the tune of about 10 trillion yen, while the LDP has yet to be specific.

Since at least part of any supplementary budget has to rely on the issuance of additional government bonds, it is important to avoid simple handout policies and choose spending that will have a highly positive economic effect.

Adjustments to energy policy will be another focus of attention during the policy talks between the two parties. While the LDP pledged to "establish the best possible combination of power generation sources within 10 years," Komeito advocates "aiming to reduce the number of nuclear power plants to zero as soon as possible."

However, Komeito also acknowledges the need to give consideration to possible negative effects on the economy and employment, as well as to the securing of nuclear power engineers.

Imports of fuel for the nation's thermal power plants, which are being used as alternative power sources to nuclear power plants, have continued to surge, with 3 trillion yen of national wealth currently flowing overseas per year.

Zero nuclear power would accelerate the hollowing-out of the domestic industrial sector, which we see as contradicting the economic measures Komeito places importance on.


Reactivation a must

We urge both the LDP and Komeito to craft a realistic policy that includes reactivating the nation's nuclear reactors once they are confirmed safe and rejecting the idea of zero nuclear power in the mid- and long term.

The LDP and Komeito also differ over amending the Constitution, but the two parties will unlikely go deeply into the issue during the policy talks this time around, due to its "low priority." This is an inevitable judgment given the limited amount of time before the new administration takes power.

The LDP insists the government's interpretation of the Constitution should be revised so the country can exercise its right to collective self-defense. This would deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance, and is something we believe should be realized.

Komeito has consistently opposed such a move. However, Japan would only be required to exercise its right to collective self-defense in a limited number of situations, such as if a U.S. military vessel was attacked by a foreign country on the high seas or if a ballistic missile headed for the United States passed over Japan.

When should exercising the right to collective self-defense be allowed, and how should it be restricted? We believe it is possible for the two parties to find common ground if they engage in deep, reality-based discussions. We hope they, as ruling parties, will continue to discuss this matter after the new administration is launched.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2012)
(2012年12月19日01時12分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

猪瀬都政始動 東京の難題をどう解決する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 20, 2012)
Is Inose up to the task of resolving Tokyo's problems?
猪瀬都政始動 東京の難題をどう解決する(12月19日付・読売社説)

Naoki Inose has assumed the post of Tokyo governor after a landslide victory in Sunday's election. We hope he will steadily and successfully tackle the host of issues confronting him.

Tokyo residents threw their support behind Inose, who as vice governor supported former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and pledged he would pursue policies set by his predecessor.

Inose garnered a remarkable 4.34 million votes, the biggest number ever recorded by an individual in Japan's election history. Two factors were probably behind this--a higher voter turnout because the election was held simultaneously with the House of Representatives election and the lack of a competitive rival.

The new governor should perform his tasks persistently and without complacency over the huge number of votes he won.

First of all, Inose must review the policies pursued by his predecessor and eliminate those that have had a negative impact.


Banking business a headache

One negative legacy is ShinGinko Tokyo, a bank launched in 2005 with the aim of supporting small and medium-size companies. At the behest of Ishihara, the metropolitan government initially invested 100 billion yen in taxpayers' money, but the bank faced a management crisis. The investment has been criticized constantly as a misjudgment.

If the Law concerning Temporary Measures to Facilitate Financing for Small and Medium Enterprises, which allows a grace period for repayment, expires next March, it could adversely affect the cash flows of companies receiving loans from ShinGinko. This could lead to a bigger predicament for the bank's management.

Inose said the bank had "moved into the black on a single fiscal year basis." But is he certain the bank can be reconstructed? He needs to explain clearly to Tokyo residents about the significance of having the struggling bank continue its operations.

During the Tokyo election campaign, Inose said he planned to proceed with electric power energy reform and called for obsolete thermal power plants to be replaced.

However, relying on thermal power generation will increase fuel costs and worsen Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s financial distress. Restarting nuclear reactors is indispensable to secure a stable power supply.


Clarify N-power stance

It is questionable that Inose has not presented a clear stance on restarting nuclear power plants as governor of Tokyo, a major power consumption area. He must work on the Niigata prefectural government and others concerned to restart the reactors at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

Formulation of antidisaster measures is also an important task. A near-field earthquake--one with a narrow and shallow focus--has been forecast to occur in Tokyo with a 70 percent probability within 30 years. Urgent measures must be taken to strengthen the fireproofing and earthquake resistance of wooden houses. It also will be essential to modify the townscape of areas congested with houses.

The host city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be decided next September. As the campaign to make Tokyo's bid for the Olympics successful is entering a crucial stage, public support must be enhanced.

In regard to the 23 ward assemblies, which have a combined total of 900 assembly members, reform has yet to start. This bloated number has been pointed out as problematic, but remains uncorrected.

On Tuesday, Inose told metropolitan government officials: "Tokyo has a role to reform Japan. We'll do what we can do." His ability to get things done will be put to the test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2012)
(2012年12月19日01時12分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月19日 (水)

アナリスで究極のアフィリエイトを! 効果は絶大、費用は最小


| | コメント (0)

中国機領空侵犯 自衛隊への挑発が過ぎないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 19, 2012)
China's provocative acts are beyond the pale
中国機領空侵犯 自衛隊への挑発が過ぎないか(12月18日付・読売社説)

How should Japan deal with a China that has repeatedly engaged in brazen provocations both on the sea and in the air near the Senkaku Islands? This is one of the most serious tasks facing the administration of incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A propeller-driven airplane belonging to China's State Oceanic Administration on Thursday intruded into Japanese airspace near the Senkaku Islands and flew near the islands for about half an hour. It marks the first time a Chinese aircraft has ever intruded into Japanese airspace.

The Chinese government tried to explain the act away by calling it "a three-dimensional patrol both on the water and in the air." But it was probably an intentionally provocative act conducted amid Japan's election campaign for the House of Representatives.

Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing Incident perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army. The air intrusion may also have been intended to respond to anti-Japan sentiments in China.

The government lodged a strong protest with China. Washington, acting in concert with Tokyo, also conveyed its concern. When the gravity of the issue is taken into consideration, these are appropriate responses. The Japanese government, in cooperation with other countries, must call on China to exercise self-restraint.


A higher level of hazard

The potential danger posed by an intrusive act differs greatly between those in the air and on the water.

When a Chinese government vessel intrudes into Japanese waters, the Japan Coast Guard takes action, while the Maritime Self-Defense Force does not come to the fore.

When there is an intrusion into the nation's airspace, however, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambles fighters to patrol and issue warnings.

International law does not allow aircraft to fly into the territorial airspace of a foreign country without permission. A country thus intruded upon can take measures to exclude the intruding airplane to protect its sovereignty.

The ASDF scrambled 156 times against seemingly imminent intrusions by Chinese airplanes into Japanese airspace in fiscal 2011, a record high in the past decade. In the first half of this fiscal year alone, the ASDF scrambled 69 times.

Should any unexpected incident occur between an ASDF aircraft and an intruding Chinese airplane, it could escalate, in a worst-case scenario, into a military conflict between the two countries.


A troubling radar blind spot

In response to Thursday's intrusion into Japanese airspace, the ASDF scrambled fighter jets but failed to arrive at the spot promptly enough and to fully track the intrusion of the Chinese airplane. As there is no radar site near the Senkaku Islands, the ASDF failed to detect the Chinese aircraft, which was believed to have flown low over the waters close to the islands, early enough.

It is a matter of urgency to reinforce the SDF's warning and patrol system against Chinese aircraft. The ASDF needs to fill in this blind spot in its radar network by deploying more E-2C early-warning aircraft and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) planes to the Nansei Islands.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has released a paper on China's foreign policy, in which he emphasized that China "will fight with Japan resolutely" against the Japanese government's nationalization of part of the Senkaku Islands.

A Chinese official in charge of diplomatic authorities, who are supposed to function as a window for communication and negotiation with other countries, has taken a hard-line stance. This only hinders a level-headed bilateral dialogue, making it difficult to bring the issue under control.

China must become aware that its self-centered behavior is certainly damaging its international reputation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 18, 2012)
(2012年12月18日01時22分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

安倍政権へ始動 次の参院選まで息が抜けない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 19, 2012)
No relief in sight for LDP until upper house election
安倍政権へ始動 次の参院選まで息が抜けない(12月18日付・読売社説)

A new administration must avoid political indecisiveness and move to address the policy challenges ahead.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe should take the people's hopes to heart and ensure stable management of his administration.

Abe has indicated he plans to keep LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba in the same post in the upcoming reshuffle of party executives so he can play a leading role in the House of Councillors election next summer.

The LDP and New Komeito combined to win 325 seats in Sunday's House of Representatives election, and Abe is set to be named prime minister at a special Diet session on Dec. 26. Unless the problem of the divided Diet is resolved, however, politics will remain unstable.

With the upper house election considered "the final match," keeping Ishiba in his current post would be the first step toward an election victory, which the party regards as most important.

As Abe acknowledged, the LDP's landslide victory Sunday is attributable to passive support by voters who only regard the party as "better than the Democratic Party of Japan." The rate of votes won by the LDP in the proportional representation segment was 27.6 percent, almost the same as the 26.7 percent in the previous lower house election, in which the party suffered a crushing defeat.


Must adopt modest approach

If the party boasts of the ruling bloc's two-thirds majority in the lower house, which allows it to pass bills that have been voted down by the upper house through a second vote, and if it uses heavy-handed tactics in the Diet and commits a series of blunders, it could receive a harsh public judgment in the upper house election.

Abe says he plans "a cabinet to break through the crisis" and revive the government's currently dormant Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy as the control tower of economic policy. He also expressed his intention to compile a large-scale supplementary budget for this fiscal year.

The top priority for the time being is to end deflation as soon as possible. An economic recovery in the first half in 2013 is essential as a precondition for increasing the consumption tax to 8 percent in April 2014.

It is a matter of course for the government to boost the economy by beefing up economic policy measures. But it should avoid returning to lavish spending on public works projects and agriculture.

On foreign policy, Abe said he planned to visit the United States as early as late January, and would work to put Japan-U.S. relations on a firm footing once again. These ties were disrupted under the DPJ-led administration.


Bolster Japan-U.S. alliance

Strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance is a pressing task, given the severe security situation in Northeast Asia. Changing prime ministers for the seventh consecutive year since 2006 has not helped in carrying out the nation's diplomacy. Japan's declining presence in the international community must be arrested.

Abe is to hold a meeting with New Komeito Chief Representative Natsuo Yamaguchi on Tuesday to confirm that the two parties will form a coalition government. In policy talks between the two parties, such issues as the right to collective self-defense, a supplementary budget and nuclear energy policy should be taken up.

In the lower house election campaign, the LDP called for a change in the government interpretation of the Constitution to enable the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense. However, Komeito maintains a cautious stance.

It is obvious that exercising this right is desirable from the standpoint of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. The LDP must continue to press Komeito to support it on this point.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 18, 2012)
(2012年12月18日01時22分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月18日 (火)

自民党政権復帰 謙虚に実績積み信頼取り戻せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 18, 2012)
LDP must regain public's trust with achievements
自民党政権復帰 謙虚に実績積み信頼取り戻せ(12月17日付・読売社説)


Voters handed down a stern judgment on the Democratic Party of Japan-led government. They obviously opted for a stable administration from which realistic policies can be expected.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its likely coalition partner New Komeito together garnered more than 320 seats in the 46th House of Representatives election Sunday to secure a return to power. It was an overwhelming victory but was not met with an air of excitement.

The DPJ, on the other hand, suffered a historic, crushing setback after losing a huge number of seats. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Sunday night he would resign as party president.

LDP President Shinzo Abe, who is poised to assume the post of prime minister for the second time, said the election results "do not show the LDP fully regained the people's confidence." The party should not be complacent. It will be essential for it to resolve a host of challenges, including economic revitalization and reconstruction from last year's disaster, so it can regain public confidence.


Ishin no Kai secures foothold

One factor behind the LDP's victory may be that the voters wanted to punish the DPJ-led administration for its blunders.

The Hatoyama administration's haphazard handling of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture undermined the relationship of trust between the central and local governments and crippled the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The following Kan Cabinet took a winding course in coping with the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Public distrust in politics peaked as Prime Minister Naoto Kan clung to his post after announcing his intention to resign.

The Noda administration made some laudable achievements, including the enactment of the law on the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, but he failed to achieve unity in his party, thereby causing it to split.

The gap between the people's expectations of the DPJ to effect real change in government three years ago and their subsequent disappointment was demonstrated by the huge loss of seats suffered in Sunday's election. The DPJ's humiliating setback was symbolized by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's decision not to run in the election and Kan's defeat in a single-seat constituency.

Some incumbent Cabinet ministers lost their Diet seats. Among them are Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Finance Minister Koriki Jojima, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shinji Tarutoko, and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Makiko Tanaka.

Many voters must have used their votes to express their stern criticism of the DPJ over its campaign platform for the 2009 general election, which incorporated such populist policies as a handout of child-rearing allowances and making expressway tolls free without securing definite sources of revenue.

The DPJ must rebuild itself based on the experience it gained as a ruling party.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which had aimed to become a so-called third political force, made a strong showing, securing enough seats to exert a certain amount of influence on the national political scene. Its two popular campaign faces--party leader Shintaro Ishihara and acting leader Toru Hashimoto--were able to successfully appeal to the voters. Your Party, which has a cooperative relationship with Ishin no Kai, also made gains.

Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) suffered disappointing results. Ichiro Ozawa and other DPJ defectors tried to survive by joining the party headed by Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada and gathering political forces opposing tax increase and nuclear power generation. Their strategy came up short.


'Zero-nuclear policy' unsuccessful

The LDP's election partnership with Komeito in single-seat constituencies bore fruit. And the LDP gained in districts where "third political force" parties competed with another.

The LDP's advance may also partly be attributed to the fact that its policies appeared more convincing than those of other parties.

The LDP appealed to voters by pledging to carry out bold monetary-easing policies to end the nation's deflationary trend and implement comprehensive reform of the social security and tax system, centering on the hike in the consumption tax rate.

The party also emphasized its energy policy, under which nuclear power plants whose safety is confirmed will be put back online at least for the time being and the best combination of power generation sources will be decided over time. It did not advocate eliminating nuclear power generation.

The fact that the national security environment has become increasingly harsh may also have helped the LDP widen its appeal to voters as it stressed its pledge of rebuilding the nation's diplomatic policy.

The LDP is set to form a coalition government with Komeito. But the coalition cannot secure a majority in the House of Councillors even when the strength of two parties is combined.

It is highly likely the Diet will remain divided with no party holding a majority in the upper house, at least until the next upper house election scheduled for next summer.

Given this, it is essential for a ruling coalition to maintain cooperation among the three parties--the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito--which realized the comprehensive pension and tax reform, and make thorough efforts to form a consensus in policies.

As the LDP and Komeito, when combined, have garnered more than the two-thirds of the total seats in the lower house, bills can be passed into law by a second vote even if they are voted down in the upper chamber.

Yet precedent shows that if they run the administration high-handedly, they will cause a backlash of public sentiment in the next upper house election. The two parties should bear in mind the need to manage the administration with humility.

We were surprised at the wide-ranging swing in the number of seats won by parties, as was seen in the 2005 lower house election contested over the postal privatization issue, the 2009 election that brought a change of government with the DPJ coming into power, and the latest election.


Election reform an urgent task

It is characteristic of the single-seat constituency system that parties tend to win more seats than the percentage of all votes they receive would seem to warrant. We cannot help feeling that the current system needs to be corrected.

Should a large number of Diet members be replaced every time a national election is held, the nation's politics will become unstable as it becomes difficult for policies to be created at the initiative of politicians. Such a development would also weaken the nation's diplomatic power.

We should also keep in mind that the latest election was held with the electoral system in a "state of unconstitutionality" as the Supreme Court has pointed out.

The DPJ, the LDP and Komeito have agreed they would make a drastic review of the lower house election system and make the necessary legal arrangements to reduce the number of lower house seats during the ordinary Diet session next year.

It is necessary to shed light on the problems in the current system, which combines single-seat constituencies and proportional representation, and dare to implement a drastic reform, including re-adopting a multiple-seat constituency system. This could be a faster route to rebuilding the nation's politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2012)
(2012年12月17日04時01分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月17日 (月)

衆院選きょう投票 日本再生へ誤りなき1票を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 17, 2012)
National revitalization, end to political stagnation crucial
衆院選きょう投票 日本再生へ誤りなき1票を(12月16日付・読売社説)


Voting today in the 46th House of Representatives election provides people with an important opportunity to choose a new political alignment that will bear the responsibility of charting the nation's future course.

It is hoped voters will cast their precious vote after examining the policies, capabilities and disposition of each party and candidate.

The world is going through drastic changes. This year, new regimes were inaugurated in China, North Korea, Russia, France and a number of other countries. U.S. President Barack Obama was reelected for a second term, and South Korea will elect a new president on Wednesday.


We should not allow only Japan to lag under our nation's climate of political indecisiveness.

Reviving the vigor of the nation's political system is the first and most urgent task if Japan wants to overcome deflation and the strong yen, attain both economic resuscitation and fiscal reconstruction, strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and rebuild its diplomacy vis-a-vis other Asian countries.

The lower house election is for voters to choose an administration to lead the country. The biggest focal point in this poll is whether the Democratic Party of Japan-led alliance will continue to hold the reins of government or a coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito will retake the helm.

The DPJ is facing a strong headwind. It made a historical achievement when it enabled a package of bills related to the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems to pass through the Diet. But the party's campaign pledges for 2009 lower house election were in tatters, and its pledge of "taking key roles in the decision-making process away from bureaucrats and putting them into the hands of politicians" was only an empty slogan that caused much political confusion. We believe these factors are playing against the DPJ.


12 parties field candidates

We highly commend the LDP with regard to the support it gave to allow the passage of the bills on the integrated reform of social security and tax systems even though it was an opposition party.

But the LDP failed to act like a responsible party in some cases when it resisted entering deliberations on bills and jolted the DPJ-led government by presenting censure motions--all tactics engineered by exploiting the divided Diet, in which the ruling bloc lacks a majority of seats in the House of Councillors.

This election saw candidates fielded by 12 parties--the biggest number since the current election system that combines single-seat constituencies and a proportional representation system was introduced in 1996. This resulted from splits within the DPJ and the inroads into national politics made by regional parties.

Before this election campaign officially kicked off on Dec. 4, new parties vying to form a "third political force" were formed or merged one after another. They undeniably put priority on these moves as an election strategy, with coordination of their policies and political philosophy taking a back seat.

To which party and candidate should we entrust our votes to reflect our will? The credibility of campaign pledges was severely hurt with the DPJ's botched efforts, but we should pay attention most to parties' policies.

With the ever-graying society, declining birthrate and worsening fiscal conditions, the role of the government is shifting from distributing benefits to distributing burdens. We should closely examine if parties' policies are backed up by concrete plans for revenue sources and if they have presented ways to realize their policies.

In regard to economic policy, an area of particular interest to the public, the DPJ in its election platform set the goal of a nominal 3 percent year-on-year growth rate, or around 2 percent after inflation. The party says it will place priority on helping nurture such emerging sectors as renewable energy and medical and nursing care services.

The LDP, for its part, has attached high importance to reinvigorating the national economy and strengthening Japan's industrial competitiveness. Setting an inflation target of 2 percent, the party has committed itself to a bold monetary-easing policy, saying it will consider the advisability of revising the Bank of Japan Law to allow more collaboration between the government and the central bank.


Diplomatic skills vital

The issue of Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade negotiations had earlier been expected to be a key campaign issue from the viewpoint of the nation's growth strategy. It is disappointing, however, that both the DPJ and the LDP refrained from going into specifics because both have a number of members who either oppose the free trade pact outright or are skeptical about it.

Meanwhile, parties remain sharply split regarding energy policy.

The DPJ has pledged to "reduce the number of operating nuclear power plants to zero by the end of the 2030s." Such parties as Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) and the Japanese Communist Party have taken the position of "doing away with nuclear power generation" within an even shorter time frame. The LDP, for that matter, has avoided producing a definite conclusion, saying the party will "determine the optimum makeup of power generation sources over a 10-year time frame."

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has officially vowed to "break with" nuclear power, but its stance on the matter is incomprehensible because its leader, Shintaro Ishihara, has publicly denied the party made the antinuclear election pledge.

A party calling for terminating the nation's nuclear power generation should, as a matter of course, propose ways to cope with the adverse impacts of the "no-nuclear" option on the economy and employment, as well as measures to maintain Japan's nuclear energy-related technological levels. There have been no such proposals made in the lower house campaign and no in-depth debates on the matter.

On diplomacy and national security issues, many parties have called for deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance, each pledging to do its best to defend Japan's territorial integrity, including that over the Senkaku Islands.

The environment surrounding the nation's security has been increasingly severe as shown by the latest launch by North Korea of a long-range ballistic missile and China's military buildup and increasingly assertive maritime activities.

We urge voters to determine correctly which party has specific measures and ability to negotiate effectively to realize the nation's diplomatic goals.


Quality of politicians falling

The possibility is high that the divided state of the Diet will continue even after the general election.

Voters, in this connection, should also consider whether they should grant a single party a stable majority in the lower chamber.

A coalition government comprising a number of parties might find it easier to reflect diversified views in government policies. However, the process of ironing out conflicting views within the parties in power could be protracted, leading to a political impasse.

Many first-time candidates have been fielded in this general election, including those from the "third political force." If they win the election, they will have to immediately address a pile of policy tasks. Those in power, in particular, must fulfill the responsibility of appropriately using bureaucrats in steering affairs of state.

One major factor behind the stagnancy of politics in recent years is the deteriorating quality of politicians. Candidates' problem-solving capabilities and other personal qualities are therefore sure to be tested.

Voters should make correct choices in casting their ballots by scrutinizing the comparative merits and demerits of policies and assertions of parties and candidates.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2012)
(2012年12月16日01時21分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

32レッドカジノ ごあいさつ



2003年以来毎年「最優秀オンラインカジノ大賞」を受賞し続ける 32Red Casino はオンライン上で最も信頼されているカジノの一つです。 他カジノに負けない毎月のボーナス、素晴らしいVIP制度、受賞歴のあるプレイヤーサポート、そして160%デポジットウエルカムボーナスを提供する32Redを試さない手はありません!下記の32Redからの素晴らしいオファーをご覧下さい。

>$20(あるいはご選択の通貨)のご入金で$32 無料チップを獲得!




Instant Play
Download Now



Steve @ 32Red


| | コメント (0)

2012年12月16日 (日)

32レッドカジノへの誘い mailing affiliate

32Red Casino
32Red Casino



2003年以来毎年「最優秀オンラインカジノ大賞」を受賞し続ける 32Red Casino はオンライン上で最も信頼されているカジノの一つです。 他カジノに負けない毎月のボーナス、素晴らしいVIP制度、受賞歴のあるプレイヤーサポート、そして160%デポジットウエルカムボーナスを提供する32Redを試さない手はありません!下記の32Redからの素晴らしいオファーをご覧下さい。

>$20(あるいはご選択の通貨)のご入金で$32 無料チップを獲得!




Instant Play
Download Now



Steve @ 32Red


32Red Casino
32Red Plc, Suites 9 - 11, Eurotowers, Gibraltar. Company reg. number 83626
Enjoy 32Red Responsibly:
Gamble Aware

| | コメント (0)







| | コメント (0)







| | コメント (0)

衆院選あす投票 ネット利用が課題として残る

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 16, 2012)
Voters should study policies and vote to change politics
衆院選あす投票 ネット利用が課題として残る(12月15日付・読売社説)

Sunday's House of Representatives election is important in setting the nation's course. We want to prepare for the vote by scrutinizing each political party's platform.

In this election, 12 parties are fighting a close, heated battle. In contrast, voters appear to be less enthusiastic.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun after the official election campaign kicked off, 82 percent of respondents said they were interested in the forthcoming lower house election, down 10 percentage points from a similar poll conducted ahead of the previous 2009 election.

The number of early votes cast so far for Sunday's election was also reportedly lower than that for the previous election.

This is attributable to growing public distrust of politics due to the current political disarray.

New parties, formed to challenge established parties, largely serve as mutual-aid entities designed only to help defectors from the Democratic Party of Japan and lower-profile candidates win seats in the election. Apparently drawn up hastily, their proposed measures hardly address issues that people are dissatisfied about.

In a basic step to change politics, voters must look closely into each party's policies and then exercise their voting right.


Low turnout of young voters

Meanwhile, it is a matter of concern that the voting rate for people in their 20s is always significantly lower compared with other age brackets.

However, we want young people, in particular, to become more interested in politics as they will be forced to shoulder various burdens as a result of the nation's financial difficulties and expanding economic disparity among people.

Parties tend to put measures to support child care on the back burner as they focus on the pension system and health care for the elderly in their social security policies. Some observers say such a tendency reflects the parties' focus on middle-aged and elderly people with higher voting rates.

The nation's economy has worsened. If the parties make wrong policy choices now, job scarcity for university students and other young people could become serious again.

Concerned over the higher youth jobless rate, the parties have proposed employment measures such as making part-time workers known as freeters regular employees and providing young people with assistance to develop job skills. Some parties have pushed for steps friendly to young people and families with small children in their campaign pledges.


Use of Net remains an issue

Voters are being urged to assess what party has proposed realistic measures that are unlikely to pass excessive burdens onto future generations.

To boost the turnout of young voters, the expanded use of the Internet for elections would be effective.

However, even updating the website of a party after the start of an official campaign could violate the Public Offices Election Law if the act is deemed part of election campaign activities.

With the number of Net users nearing 100 million and Japanese expatriates casting their ballots from overseas, such a regulation is unreasonable. It is no wonder that many parties have criticized the outdated law during the latest election campaign.

We hope the parties will work on establishing rules on the use of the Internet for elections before next summer's House of Councillors election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2012)
(2012年12月15日01時41分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

憲法改正 「3分の2」要件緩和を糸口に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 16, 2012)
Relax two-thirds rule for constitutional revision
憲法改正 「3分の2」要件緩和を糸口に(12月15日付・読売社説)

While the international community is changing drastically, what type of nation should Japan aim to become in the future?

One reason this House of Representatives election is significant is that revision of the nation's Constitution has emerged as a major campaign issue.

The Liberal Democratic Party has included an outline of its draft plan to revise the supreme law in its campaign platform. The outline calls for Japan's right to self-defense to be added to Article 9 of the Constitution and possession of an armed force for national defense to be stipulated in the same article.

Whatever they are called, we consider it appropriate to place the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution. The lack of stipulations concerning the SDF in the basic law has created a fictitious narrative in which the SDF is not a military force and has led to unrealistic interpretations of and discussions about the Constitution.

The LDP is not trying to revise the pacifistic ideas in Article 9, however. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party are criticizing the LDP for trying to transform Japan into a country that will engage in war abroad, but we think they have missed the point.


Komeito wary of revision

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) President Shintaro Ishihara said he is not sure whether the LDP and New Komeito will really try to amend the Constitution even if they win a majority of lower house seats in Sunday's general election. He aimed to highlight the significance of Ishin no Kai, which is more willing to revise the Constitution.

Ishihara made his remark apparently in light of the fact that Komeito is wary of constitutional revision. The issue of constitutional revision will be a problem if the LDP forms a coalition government with Komeito and wants to maintain it.

Meanwhile, it leaves much to be desired that the Democratic Party of Japan has only said in its campaign platform that the party "will make use of the Constitution."

DPJ President and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is willing deep down to revise the Constitution, but he said revision is not an issue in the lower house election campaign. We do not know what kind of constitution the DPJ considers ideal.

More discussions are also necessary on the two-chamber system. The government and ruling coalition parties cannot pass any bill without cooperation of the opposition in the so-called divided Diet, where the latter controls the House of Councillors. The opposition parties constantly submit censure motions and refuse deliberations on bills in the upper house only to create confusion. This is a major cause of the functional decline of politics.

Ishin no Kai and Your Party are advocating a unicameral assembly by amending the Constitution to resolve the divided Diet.

We do not think abolition of the upper house is realistic. But, we also can understand that they are trying to solve the problem by raising questions about the adverse effects caused by the situation in the upper house, which has too much power.


Make start with Article 96

We think it is extremely important to create a constitutional provision to deal with emergencies as proposed by the LDP and Your Party. The current Constitution does not have any provision to enhance functions of the government in case of emergencies. This problem resurfaced after the Great East Japan Earthquake last year.

It is also very significant that the LDP, Ishin no Kai and Your Party have called for relaxation of requirements to amend the Constitution. Article 96 of the Constitution stipulates that a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each house is necessary to initiate revision of the Constitution. This hurdle is too high.

Relaxing this requirement by revising it to a majority would be the first step to reviewing the Constitution based on changes of the time. After the lower house election, each party should start discussing constitutional revision, starting with Article 96.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2012)
(2012年12月15日01時41分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月15日 (土)

尼崎連続変死 角田被告自殺は警察の失態だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2012)
Major error by police enabled Sumida's suicide
尼崎連続変死 角田被告自殺は警察の失態だ(12月14日付・読売社説)

With the death of Miyoko Sumida, it has become far more difficult to determine the truth behind an extremely abnormal case in the history of crime in this country. She was the central figure in the case. This was a gross blunder by the police.

Sumida, who was rearrested on suspicion of murder and other charges related to bodies found in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, and elsewhere, died in a detention cell in the Hyogo Prefectural Police Headquarters. The police are treating her death as a suicide.

Sumida was suspected to have been the leader of a group that infiltrated the homes of families who had become relatives of Sumida through marriage and adoption. She then allegedly forced these families to obey her orders and extorted money from them. In a series of similar incidents, five families were split apart and six bodies have been found so far.


Warning signs of suicide

As what Sumida might have said was expected to reveal important clues in unraveling what happened in the so-called Amagasaki case, her death will have an immeasurable negative effect on the investigation. It is only natural for one of victims of the crimes to angrily demand, "What in the world were the police doing?"

Two months ago, Sumida reportedly "consulted" a police officer in charge of her detention about the possibility of suicide, saying such things as: "I don't want to live. How can I die?" The day before her death, she reportedly said some things that could have been seen as a last will to a lawyer who came to interview her.

Due to these circumstances, the prefectural police designated her as a "person requiring special attention," which means her behavior had to be checked closely and recorded. According to the National Police Agency's notification, such people should, in principle, be monitored visually around the clock in a one-person cell.

However, the prefectural police violated these stipulations by placing Sumida in a three-person cell. Although the number of times the cell was inspected per hour was increased, some time slots received insufficient monitoring. There appears to be no doubt that there were lapses by the prefectural police.

Sumida was found dead with a long-sleeved T-shirt wound around her neck. A police officer on checking duty noticed that Sumida appeared not to be breathing and called her superior. It took 11 minutes to unlock the cell from the time the first officer noticed Sumida's abnormal condition.

The delay was to prevent the two other inmates from escaping, according to the police, but the speed of the response is still questionable.


Thorough verification needed

Initially the prefectural police insisted it had made no mistakes. However, it later admitted some inappropriate action had been taken. "We can't say there were no mistakes," one official said.

Why were the police unable to prevent Sumida from committing suicide? The prefectural police's monitoring system needs to be thoroughly reexamined.

According to the NPA, several suicides occur in police detention cells each year. Belts and neckties, which can be used for suicides, are not allowed to be brought into detention cells, but cases of hanging using other pieces of clothing are said to be harder to prevent.

In 2007 a defendant suspected of murdering a housewife in Sakura, Tochigi Prefecture, hanged himself in a visiting room for people held in detention at a police station.

We encourage all the nation's police departments to make a concerted effort to prevent similar cases from occurring, and to learn from the mistakes of the Hyogo police. For starters, the monitoring system at police detention cells needs to be thoroughly reexamined.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2012)
(2012年12月14日01時31分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2012)
Parties must be honest about risks of 'zero-nuclear' future
原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ(12月14日付・読売社説)

Formulating a nuclear energy policy is a vitally important task, one that would not only help ensure a stable power supply, but also protect the environment, and affect the nation's economy, diplomacy and national security--the whole spectrum of matters related to steering the ship of state.

Many parties in the current House of Representatives campaign, held in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, have adopted "zero nuclear" pledges. These parties, however, have neglected to explain the wide-ranging risks of eliminating nuclear power.

We urge voters not to be swayed by slogans only aimed at winning the election, but to determine calmly which parties and candidates would pursue a realistic nuclear power policy.

Parties including Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) and the Japanese Communist Party have taken the position of never allowing any of the nation's nuclear reactors to resume operating.


Fuel cost up 3 tril. yen a year

Their assertion that this country could "do without nuclear power" on the grounds that there were no blackouts this summer is far off the mark.

The truth is that the nation walked a shaky tightrope in terms of the power supply this summer. With all reactors but two idle, power outages were only narrowly averted by mobilizing all thermal power stations available, including some outdated ones. The result was an increase of 3 trillion yen for the year's fuel costs for power generation, causing one power utility after another to announce rate hikes.

Anyone who ignores the adverse impacts of power shortages deserves to be called irresponsible.

Parties including the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), on the other hand, have acknowledged the need to restart the nation's nuclear power plants to ensure a stable supply of electricity, as long as the reactors can be confirmed safe. We see these positions as valid and reasonable.

However, it is problematic that many party platforms promise to walk away from nuclear power inside a certain time frame, such as the DPJ's pledge to "reduce the number of operating nuclear power plants to zero by the end of the 2030s."

Replacing nuclear power with solar and other renewable sources of energy while boosting energy efficiency would cost the nation more than 100 trillion yen, according to one government projection. This would have to be funded either by higher electricity rates or more taxes. How can the hollowing-out of the nation's industrial sector be stopped in the face of increased production costs, and bankruptcies of small and midsized businesses caused by this policy?

The simplistic argument that introducing renewable energy sources would stimulate the economy is hardly convincing.


Reveal 'inconvenient truths'

We commend the LDP for not setting a zero-nuclear goal, as the party is apparently aware of its position as a responsible party aiming to win back the reins of government. However, the LDP's 10-year time frame for "determining the optimum makeup of power generation sources" is much too slow.

The municipalities that host nuclear power facilities of course deserve consideration. Aomori Prefecture, the site of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, is particularly anxious about the possibility of being forced into becoming a final resting place for nuclear waste.

The political parties contesting the election must revise their positions to support the continued, but safe, use of nuclear power. They should also quickly devise a plan to keep the nuclear fuel recycling program going, and determine how radioactive waste should be finally disposed of.

If Japan recklessly adopted a zero-nuclear goal, it would soon cease to be a partner of the United States in its nuclear nonproliferation strategy. This would cause a fissure in the Japan-U.S. alliance, possibly to the detriment of our national interests.

Every political party needs to have the honesty and candor to tell voters "inconvenient truths" about a possible zero-nuclear Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2012)
(2012年12月14日01時31分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月14日 (金)

32red casino

| | コメント (0)

北ミサイル発射 安保理は制裁強化を決議せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 14, 2012)
UNSC should tighten sanctions on Pyongyang
北ミサイル発射 安保理は制裁強化を決議せよ(12月13日付・読売社説)

Ignoring international warnings, North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile under the guise of launching what it claimed to be an observation satellite.

Once again, Pyongyang flouted without compunction U.N. resolutions that prohibit the country from engaging in any launching activities involving ballistic missile technology.

After North Korea's previous missile launch in April ended in failure, the U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement warning it would "take action accordingly" in the event of another launch or a nuclear test.

We strongly urge the Security Council to swiftly adopt a resolution to tighten sanctions on North Korea.

The United States has imposed powerful financial sanctions on Iran, which have had a certain level of effect. We believe it is time to consider similar actions on North Korea.

China, a permanent Security Council member, must recognize the responsibility it bears in this matter. If China blocks a UNSC binding resolution, North Korea will do nothing to change its reckless behavior.


Pyongyang's true motive

North Korea hailed the missile launch as a success, saying it put a "satellite into orbit as planned."

This time around, it appears North Korea succeeded in controlling the missile's flight, separating second- and third-stage rockets, the main tasks it faced toward developing the capability to fire long-range ballistic missiles. North Korea's missile range has extended considerably and its accuracy has improved, posing a grave threat to the international community.

Why is North Korea so obsessed with launching "satellites" at enormous costs? It is unthinkable the true purpose was to put a shoddy satellite into orbit. The truth is that the hermetic country believes its survival depends on bolstering its nuclear deterrence capability by possessing atomic weapons and missiles to carry the payloads.

According to South Korean TV reports, then former chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army delivered an address to military executives at the start of this year, saying: "Launching a satellite is equal to [launching] a weaponized rocket. It enables us to install nuclear weapons on rockets capable of reaching the U.S. mainland."

The United States is concerned these remarks may come true.

Japan, which is already within the range of North Korea's Rodong intermediate-range ballistic missile, must strengthen its alliance with the United States and enhance its deterrence against North Korea. To achieve this it is crucial that Japan be able to exercise its right to collective self-defense regarding its missile defense system.


J-Alert worked smoothly

Wednesday's missile launch was regarded as a surprise, as the international community was under the impression that North Korea had decided to delay the launch. This highlights the limits of intelligence analysis on North Korea's activities.

Nevertheless, the Japanese government was able to disseminate information about the launch to local governments in Okinawa Prefecture through the J-Alert early warning system six minutes after the launch.

The government's success in conveying information this time around shows it has learned from lessons of the past and improved its system for confirming, conveying and announcing such important information.
In 2009, the government issued a false alarm before North Korea actually fired a missile, and in April this year, the government's announcement of the missile launch was significantly delayed.

The Self-Defense Forces deployed three Aegis-equipped destroyers with interceptor missiles to the East China Sea as well as units equipped with PAC-3 missiles to Ishigakijima island in Okinawa Prefecture and other areas to prepare for the missile's fall.

The deployment was completed in a much shorter time than for the previous two launches.

What is the key to success in national security and crisis management? It is to meticulously draw up contingency plans; conduct thorough training; and incorporate lessons learned to make the plans more rigorous.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2012)
(2012年12月13日01時53分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

舞鶴殺害無罪 検察に厳格な立証求めた判決

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 14, 2012)
Maizuru case demands emphasis on concrete evidence
舞鶴殺害無罪 検察に厳格な立証求めた判決(12月13日付・読売社説)

Concluding there was no evidence pointing to a 64-year-old man as the real culprit in a May 2008 murder, the Osaka High Court seemed to have no other option than handing down a not-guilty ruling.

The court overturned a lower court ruling that found the man guilty on charges of murder and indecent assault resulting in the death of a first-year high school student in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture.

"There is ample room for reasonable doubt about him being the perpetrator," the court said Wednesday, in reversing the lower court's life sentence for the man.

The high court's decision can be considered consistent with the cardinal rule of criminal trials--give the defendant the benefit of the doubt.

The defendant consistently denied the charges from the beginning. Additionally, there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime, such as a murder weapon or fingerprints.

Therefore, prosecutors gathered circumstantial evidence to bring charges against the man, with witnesses' testimonies saying they saw people who looked like the defendant and the victim as the key.

However, the ruling cast doubt on the credibility of their testimonies, saying they showed inconsistencies that could not be ignored.


Clear proof needed

In an April 2010 decision over the 2002 murder of a mother and her child in Osaka, the Supreme Court outlined the criteria for finding the accused guilty based on indirect evidence only. It said it requires "evidence that can only be explained if the accused is the actual perpetrator."

The evidence presented by prosecutors in the Maizuru case apparently did not meet this criteria. Investigators should take the ruling to heart, which urges them to collect a variety of evidence and establish clear proof.

After the high school girl was murdered, the Kyoto prefectural police headquarters arrested the man over an unrelated theft case. Police then spent as many as six days searching his home on suspicion of murder and other charges, even though they had no evidence.

Investigators collected about 2,000 items, including clothing and hair, for analysis. However, they failed to obtain any concrete evidence.


Video footage not enough

The defendant was said to have described items belonging to the victim during questioning. However, the ruling concluded it "could not be denied the man might have been given leading questions by investigators."

We cannot help wondering if investigators in this case once again applied coercive investigation methods, which have resulted in false convictions when they believed the accused to be the real perpetrator.

One of the few items the court accepted as evidence was video footage from a security camera, which showed people who looked like the defendant and the high school girl.

In recent years, images taken by security cameras have become an effective tool to identify perpetrators of crimes. When a homemaker was stabbed to death in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, last month, security cameras installed at nearby stations and stores, among other locations, took footage of the suspected murderer, even as he tried to disguise himself.

No matter how much security camera images improve, however, such evidence alone cannot prove an accused person is guilty. Investigators should once again be reminded they need other evidence to support camera images.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2012)
(2012年12月13日01時53分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月13日 (木)

COP18閉幕 新たな枠組みへ戦略を練れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 13, 2012)
Govt must reshape strategy for new CO2 framework
COP18閉幕 新たな枠組みへ戦略を練れ(12月12日付・読売社説)

The latest U.N. climate change conference, it may be said, was noteworthy only because of the confrontation between industrialized nations and emerging and developing countries over measures to tackle global warming.

The 18th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has ended in Doha after agreeing on a plan to create a new framework for rules on cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol. But overall, COP18 produced poor results.

The target is for the new framework to be adopted in 2015 and enforced in 2020. A crucial stage is expected to come in one or two years, but negotiations face a bumpy road ahead.

Emerging and developing countries oppose mandatory emission cuts, arguing they would hamper their economic growth. Maintaining this stance in COP18, they called on the industrialized nations to increase their financial support for their efforts to reduce emissions. The industrialized nations, mired in their own fiscal problems, responded negatively, thereby kicking the can down the road.

The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges only the industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse emissions. Emissions discharged by Japan and EU member nations, which are obliged to cut back on carbon dioxide, account for less than 30 percent of the world's total.


Full participation vital

It is most important in a new framework to obtain participation of all principal emission-producing countries, including China and the United States--the two biggest emitters.

Japan attended the COP18 without changing its commitment to "reducing emissions 25 percent by 2020 compared with the 1990 level," a goal that is impossible to attain, but did not present any clear plans to achieve this.

The 25 percent cut was announced abruptly three years ago by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He made the pledge on the premise that a fair framework would be formulated with the participation of main emission-producing countries. But, as was feared, only the numerical target itself attracted worldwide attention.

Furthermore, the achievement of this goal was premised on construction of additional nuclear power stations, which produce no carbon dioxide. But in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that was triggered by last year's earthquake and tsunami, it is impossible to expect construction of new nuclear plants for the time being.


Inconsistent policy to blame

Moreover, restarting nuclear reactors whose operation has been suspended has made no progress under the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who has put forth a policy of ending reliance on nuclear power generation in the 2030s. While little progress has been made to reduce greenhouse gases, the ratio of electricity produced at thermal power stations, which produce a great amount of carbon dioxide, has been rising significantly.

This resulted from the inconsistent energy policy pursued by the DPJ-led administration.

COP18 agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which was to expire this year, until 2020. Without making any commitment for the extended period, Japan will proceed with emission cuts voluntarily until a new framework takes effect.

The new government inaugurated after the forthcoming House of Representatives election must set a realistic target for emission cuts to replace the current one and reshape a strategy for international negotiations on the matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2012)
(2012年12月12日01時22分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

年金制度 甘い公約では改革が進まない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 13, 2012)
Campaign pledges weak on pension system reform
年金制度 甘い公約では改革が進まない(12月12日付・読売社説)

How will political parties maintain the nation's pension system, which is in a critical situation due to the declining birthrate and aging population? Their campaign pledges mainly call for expansion of pension benefits and lack specific measures.

Pension benefits have continued to swell as the population ages. However, revenue for premiums to fund the pension system has not increased because of a decline in the working population and a drop in wages because of the sluggish economy.

Despite this situation, the Liberal Democratic Party stresses the need to increase "benefits from welfare programs" for senior citizens receiving low pensions while maintaining the existing pension system.

In regard to the government's share of contributions to the basic pension fund, which was raised from one-third to half, the LDP pledges to make this ratio permanent by using revenue from the consumption tax.

If the LDP does this, the party should at the same time review the current situation in which taxpayers' money is used for high-income earners' basic pension at the same ratio as that for low-income earners.


Footing a large bill

The Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) advocate the creation of a "guaranteed minimum pension," which would require greater financial resources, while New Komeito insists on providing additional pension benefits to people receiving low benefits.

If the benefits are expanded without asking people to shoulder a larger burden, taxpayers' money to be used to make up for the shortfall in resources will increase. Insisting on such an expansion is irresponsible.

If pension benefits are simply increased, future generations will end up footing the bill, widening the intergenerational disparity between the young and the elderly. Under the circumstances, we believe the nation's pension system will eventually collapse.

What is needed to ensure the stability of the pension system is to curb benefits.

In this regard, it is commendable that Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is calling for "raising the pension eligibility age through creation of employment for the elderly" and that Your Party said it would "consider cutting pension benefits for high-income earners."

It is problematic, however, that the two parties advocate a "shift to a funded pension system."


Double burden

At present, we have a pay-as-you-go pension system, under which benefits for current pensioners are funded by premiums paid by the working population. If the system is shifted to a funded pension system, the nation's workforce would shoulder a double burden--paying premiums to provide benefits to the elderly as well as premiums to fund pensions they would receive after retirement.

Ishin no Kai advocates the creation of "a special inheritance tax to fund pension benefits," but the revenue raised by such a tax would be far short of what is needed. The party does not explain fully how adequate financial resources could be raised, as it does not want the social security system funded by the upcoming consumption tax hike.

To ensure stable financing of the pension system, many issues should be reviewed.

In 2004, a plan to lower pension levels was introduced in line with the decrease in the working population, but it has not been enforced. It is necessary to implement this plan at an early date.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2012)
(2012年12月12日01時22分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月12日 (水)

原発と活断層 科学的な安全性の判断を貫け

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 12, 2012)
Nuclear regulation body mustn't be swayed by public
原発と活断層 科学的な安全性の判断を貫け(12月11日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has shown its determination to take a more painstaking approach to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants.

On Monday, the organization's expert panel issued an opinion that concluded there was a high possibility a crush zone beneath a nuclear reactor of the Tsuruga power plant in Fukui Prefecture "is an active fault."

The Tsuruga power plant has two reactors, both of which are now idled due to periodic safety checks. "Under present conditions, I don't think we can start a safety review [of the reactors] in preparation for restarting operations," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said.

His remarks suggest the panel's opinion has made the reactivation of the reactors difficult, dealing Japan Atomic Power Co.--operator of the Tsuruga plant--a serious blow.

The panel's five members, including NRA Acting Chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki, were unanimous in issuing their opinion, which was issued after discussions on the geographic features of the crush zone and data from excavation surveys based on on-site inspections. The five members are experts in seismology or geology.


Restarting operations difficult

The government's safety guidelines prohibit the construction of nuclear power plants on active faults because a slippage may damage the safety equipment in reactor buildings.

The crush zone under examination runs directly beneath the Tsuruga nuclear power plant's No. 2 reactor. Some panel members also voiced concern about an active fault that runs parallel to the two reactors. The existence of this fault has been known for some time.

Japan Atomic Power has no choice but to continue to suspend the Tsuruga plant's operations unless it can persuade the panel to reverse its decision by offering new data verifying the plant's safety. The utility may have to consider the option of decommissioning the nuclear power plant. The company must exercise extreme care before making a decision on whether to build two new reactors at the plant.

The now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency discussed the possible danger of the active fault beneath the Tsuruga plant for more than five years, but refrained from taking concrete action, such as suspending operations. The agency decided to conduct a thorough study of the possible active fault only after last year's Great East Japan Earthquake.

There is a theory that the earthquake changed the geological formation around the Japanese archipelago, making it more likely for earthquakes to occur. It has become even more important for nuclear power plants to take appropriate safety measures against earthquakes.


Similar judgments likely

The NRA decided to conduct independent, detailed studies of crush zones beneath six nuclear power plants to confirm whether they are active faults. Some surveys have already been carried out, such as at the Tsuruga plant and Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. We believe the NRA's decision to conduct the studies was fair enough. There is a possibility the organization will continue to harshly evaluate the safety of power plants.

It is important for the NRA to make scientific judgments based on objective data.

In issuing its opinion on the Tsuruga power plant's crush zone, Shimazaki said, "We were able to reach a conclusion thanks to detailed studies conducted by Japan Atomic Power."

The NRA should continue to make strict decisions as in the Tsuruga plant case, without being influenced by current public sentiment calling for the abolition of all nuclear power plants.

If the Tsuruga plant remains idle, it will affect the nation's power supply, and deal a heavy blow to Japan Atomic Power, which specializes in nuclear energy. It is crucial for the government and the electric utility industry to take the initiative in dealing with the problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2012)
(2012年12月11日01時46分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

教育政策 子どもの将来見据えた論戦を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 12, 2012)
Election debates should take up education policy
教育政策 子どもの将来見据えた論戦を(12月11日付・読売社説)

Voters pay special attention to education policy. How should the children who will be responsible for Japan's future be nurtured? Each political party should present a clear future vision in this regard.

The Liberal Democratic Party listed education as a priority in its policy pledges for the upcoming House of Representatives election. It is one of the party's four pillars for national revival, along with the economy, diplomacy and quality of life. The party's proposals include reinstating Saturday classes and reviewing the current system of six years of primary school, three years each of middle and high school and four years of university.

LDP President Shinzo Abe probably wants to try again on education reform, which he aimed at while he was prime minister but left only half-done.


Undue influence of teachers union

In the election campaign, Abe has repeatedly said the Democratic Party of Japan, which is influenced by the Japan Teachers Union, cannot be entrusted with the task of truly reviving the nation's education.

For example, the national achievement test, which was introduced in 2007 to improve schoolchildren's academic abilities, was scaled down after the DPJ took power, so that instead of having all students in targeted years participate, the test was given only at a sample of about 30 percent of schools nationwide. The shift came out of consideration for criticism from the teachers union that such a test would invite competition.

Because the sampling method targets a smaller number of schools, detailed analysis of results cannot be conducted. It is understandable that the LDP argues for returning to the full participation format.

Making public high school tuition-free was one of the DPJ-led administration's pet policy measures. The LDP has proposed this be limited to children whose parents earn under a certain amount.

On the other hand, it is a cause for concern that the LDP itself has made policy proposals that would require large-scale fiscal spending, such as one to make preschool education tuition-free.

Under the current fiscal situation, which borders on crisis, it is essential to secure fiscal resources. If the LDP is serious about returning to power, it should not end up listing policy measures simply to please the public. Rather, we want it to present a realistic policy course.

Meanwhile, we consider the DPJ's policy pledges on education insufficient, as they offer little in concrete terms.


Unclear role of education boards

In this election, the role of boards of education is another important issue, especially after the functional inability of the Otsu Municipal Board of Education came to light following the suicide of a middle school student in the city who had been bullied.

The LDP proposes that full-time school superintendents appointed by the heads of local governments with the consent of local assemblies should be in charge of education boards.

Regarding this point, the DPJ's policy pledges say only that the education board system should be reviewed.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) suggests the system be abolished, while Your Party proposes that local governments be given discretion over issues concerning the system.

Under the current education board system introduced shortly after the end of World War II, education board members, appointed from among local residents, have a council system to make decisions on such important issues as teacher personnel affairs and the adoption of textbooks, to keep education from being politically influenced by local government heads.

But it cannot be denied that where responsibilities lie has become unclear as the education board system has become a mere formality despite its intended independence. Who will be responsible for education? In-depth discussions should be held on this point.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2012)
(2012年12月11日01時46分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月11日 (火)

農業政策 バラマキいつまで続けるのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 11, 2012)
Farmers need to be taken off the dole
農業政策 バラマキいつまで続けるのか(12月9日付・読売社説)

With trade liberalization in mind, strengthening the structure of the nation's agricultural sector cannot be delayed any longer.

However, the campaign platforms of the leading parties in the upcoming House of Representatives election give prominent place to dole-out policies aimed at wooing farm votes. We would rather have them pursue policies to actually create a strong farm sector.

One point at issue is the income compensation system for individual farming households. The program, an election pledge of the Democratic Party of Japan for the 2009 lower house election and introduced in fiscal 2010, provides uniform government subsidies to rice and other farmers.

For this election, the DPJ is promising to upgrade the program into a law-based system.

In fiscal 2011, the budget for the income compensation program grew to 540 billion yen--one-fourth of the total farm-related budget.

Despite the massive amount of money spent, the program can hardly be said to have enlarged the scale of the nation's farms or improved their farming operations. On the contrary, it encourages small producers to continue farming just to receive subsidies.

Policies with questionable cost-effectiveness must be reviewed.


LDP policy also flawed

By the same token, the Liberal Democratic Party's farm proposal is also problematic in many respects.

Although the LDP is calling for a full review of the income compensation system, it supports a law that would provide subsidies to rice, fruit, vegetable and livestock farmers as long as they maintain their farmland.

This is nothing but an expansion of the current farm subsidy program. How can paying farmers just to maintain their land help boost agricultural productivity?

Only by focusing government support on highly motivated, full-time farmers will the nation's agricultural sector be able to stand on its own and maintain the support of tax-paying consumers.

The LDP is also advocating reconstituting the budget for improving farmland, which the DPJ-led administration has cut significantly. This is just another dole-out policy and will do nothing to realize the "competitive and aggressive farming sector" the LDP claims to support in its election platform.

With farming so unprofitable, fewer and fewer young people are choosing to take over family farms, which has accelerated the graying of the farm population. To put an end to this vicious cycle, the government needs to present a vision to rehabilitate the farm sector.


Get ready to join TPP

As Japan prepares to join the talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the ability of Japan's farm sector to compete internationally must be strengthened. The government's target of raising the average acreage in rice paddy cultivation to 10 times the current two hectares in five years began with a roar but appears to be ending with a whimper.

The course of action that needs to be taken is clear: Integrate the production, processing and sales of farm products; gradually abolish the reduction of paddy acreage, which only hurts farmers' drive to produce; and encourage young farmers and parties from other industries who want to enter the farm sector.

Just like politicians who only see rice paddies as "voting blocs," the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group is apparently pressing candidates to show their loyalty in the form of TPP opposition in return for farm votes. This only prevents our nation's farm sector from becoming self-reliant.

Moving away from a subsidy-soaked agricultural administration would be a first step toward rejuvenating the farm sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 9, 2012)
(2012年12月9日01時32分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

日米同盟 肝心なのは「深化」の具体策だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 11, 2012)
Concrete measures needed to deepen Japan-U.S. alliance
日米同盟 肝心なのは「深化」の具体策だ(12月9日付・読売社説)

To make the Japan-U.S. alliance function more effectively, it is indispensable to work out concrete measures rather than merely mouth empty slogans.

In their campaign platforms for the upcoming House of Representatives election, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) call for deepening or bolstering the alliance.

The DPJ-led administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama destabilized the bilateral alliance by fumbling the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture. As a result of this chaotic situation, relations with China, South Korea and Russia deteriorated.

This view probably is shared by the four parties in their calls for deepening or bolstering the Japan-U.S. alliance.

North Korea's announced plan to launch a ballistic missile seriously affects Japan's national security. To deal with this, Japan-U.S. relations must be put on a solid and stable footing.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that confirms the Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. This may serve to check China, which also claims sovereignty over the islands.

That the four major parties want to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance is a significant step forward in rebuilding the nation's diplomacy.


Expand cooperation

The deepening of the bilateral alliance is a concept that emerged during the process of reviewing the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and promoting the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, as new roles for the alliance were explored following the end of the Cold War.

It is essential to enhance the nature of cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military, which forms the core of the alliance. At the same time, it is vital to broaden cooperation in the political and economic fields as well as in such new fields as the environment, cyberspace and outer space.

In this sense, the calls to end reliance on nuclear power generation as advocated by the DPJ and Komeito will make it impossible for the two countries to cooperate in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power and nuclear nonproliferation. This will run counter to moves to strengthen the alliance.

Among the parties vying in Sunday's election, the LDP listed the largest number of concrete measures to strengthen the alliance in its campaign platform. The party proposed the enactment of a basic law on national security that would uphold the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and expansion of the number of SDF personnel and equipment.


Halt defense spending cuts

These measures will help boost Japan's role in the security field. Ten consecutive years of cuts in Japan's defense spending must not be ignored as our neighbors have boosted their defense spending significantly. Japan must change direction and increase its defense budget.

The DPJ's pledges lack concrete measures to strengthen the alliance as it only presented a policy of realigning U.S. troops stationed in Japan. But the DPJ's policy agenda, though not mentioned in its manifesto, corresponds with that of the LDP in many respects. These include revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and establishment of a national security council.

Ishin no Kai, for its part, approves the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and reviewing standards for the use of weapons by the SDF as well as the issue of defense spending cuts. This stance is laudable.

During the rest of the campaign, the political parties must explain what effective measures they would take to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance. This should be the first step to resolve security issues through suprapartisan efforts after the election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 9, 2012)
(2012年12月9日01時32分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月10日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:距離感つかめる人選び /東京

December 09, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Not too far, not too close
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:距離感つかめる人選び /東京

Recently when I phoned my mother in Hokkaido, she told me, "It's cold this year, and it's snowing early." Blizzards caused a major blackout, and some people apparently had to endure the cold at night without heating. She went on, "Just getting to the neighborhood convenience store is difficult."

Nature's fury can quickly develop into a life-or-death situation.

However, when we're in Tokyo watching the news about Hokkaido, the severity of the situation doesn't really hit home. If my mother weren't in Hokkaido, I might just say, "Hmm, that looks tough for them," and have little other interest in the issue.

To put it another way, it's very difficult for us to sympathize over and comprehend things that aren't directly related to us. Even if we're not deliberately adopting a cold attitude and saying, "Well that's their problem," somewhere inside of us, we're shutting out the things beyond us, thinking, "It's got nothing to do with me."

This, we can say, is something we have learned to do to protect ourselves: If every time there was a disaster, conflict or accident in a faraway country we were to put ourselves in others' shoes and think "What if that was me?" "How are these people feeling?" then we wouldn't be able to cope with it all. By distancing ourselves a certain degree from the things that aren't directly related to us and telling ourselves, "That doesn't really affect me," we can feel a bit at ease.

But just how much distance should we place between ourselves and such issues? Or how far should we go in thinking, "I wonder how these people are feeling?" Each of us has to consider that balance and decide for ourselves. In my consultation rooms, I'm always thinking about such a balance when I see my patients. I can't get too close and find myself getting upset, but then again, neither can I distance myself too much and end up failing to understand my patients.

I wonder what the case is in the House of Representatives election, whose campaigning started on Nov. 4. How far are the various candidates going in distancing themselves from voters? It wouldn't be any good for them to fail to retain any measure of distance between individuals and become too emotional. But at the same time, it's no good having them look down on others from on high all the time, either. As I look at each of the candidates from various political parties, I'm searching for someone who maintains a fine balance in the distances they keep.

I'm not going to state here whether it looks like I'll find a candidate who fits that description, but I think everyone can agree with me when I say finding someone with that sense of balance is no easy task.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年12月04日 地方版

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 9日 (日)

公共事業 選択と集中で効果的な投資を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 9, 2012)
Public works spending should be highly selective
公共事業 選択と集中で効果的な投資を(12月8日付・読売社説)

In the wake of the recent ceiling collapse in the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, public works policies have suddenly become a key issue for the upcoming House of Representatives election.

Neglecting aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure poses a risk to public safety. To maintain such infrastructure with limited funds, political parties are being asked how they would make public works projects more efficient.

Under what it calls a "national land strengthening plan," the Liberal Democratic Party has called for the investment of 200 trillion yen over 10 years in projects such as disaster management. New Komeito also has unveiled a 10-year 100 trillion yen "new deal" plan to prevent and reduce damage from major disasters.

The Democratic Party of Japan, which called for a shift in focus "from concrete to people" in the previous 2009 lower house election, has once again criticized such plans proposed by the LDP and Komeito as "pork-barrel measures." Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has raised questions, asking people, "Will we return to the old politics of the LDP?"

Meanwhile, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has vowed to boost Japan's competitiveness without increasing public works projects. But it lacks specific measures.


Infrastructure needs attention

Roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems and other infrastructure built nationwide during the period of the nation's rapid economic growth are nearing the end of their life span, causing them to deteriorate rapidly. Taking care of aging infrastructure is an urgent task.

We hope political parties present measures to alleviate such public concerns.

According to an estimate by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, 190 trillion yen will be needed over the next 50 years to maintain or rebuild infrastructure. Amid financial difficulties, government spending on public works has declined every year. There is no room for sudden major expenses.

To minimize costs, finding damaged infrastructure and fixing it early is crucial to extend its life span. The nation should place priority on inspecting and repairing bridges by taking lessons from a series of bridge collapses in the United States due to aging.

Considering its shrinking population, Japan may be forced to stop using low-use public facilities and infrastructure, such as bridges.

The nation must carry out new public works projects under a strategy of "selection and concentration." A focus should be placed on projects linked to economic growth such as the development of loop roads in urban areas and the building of airports and ports that could become international hubs.


Cost-effectiveness is key

The DPJ-led government's approval of the extension of Shinkansen lines is questionable in terms of cost-effectiveness. This project should be reviewed.

The LDP's national land strengthening plan focuses on large-scale projects such as development along an axis on the western coast of Honshu facing the Sea of Japan so that region could supplement the east in the event of a major disaster there. The plan resembles the revival of the "archipelago-remodeling" policy the party implemented in the 1970s.

The political parties must not forget that ineffective economic measures and overdevelopment of roads and airports, which had lower-than-expected demand, were partly blamed for swollen government budget deficits.

The idea of allocating part of tax revenues from consumption tax increases to public works projects also should be ruled out. It is vital to make effective public investments by taking advantage of funds and expertise from the private sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2012)
(2012年12月8日01時24分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

政党紙配布判決 公務員の中立を乱さないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 9, 2012)
Ruling may undermine public servants' political neutrality
政党紙配布判決 公務員の中立を乱さないか(12月8日付・読売社説)

A Supreme Court ruling Friday found a national government employee who distributes a political party leaflet, which is prohibited by law, may not be necessarily accused of a crime.

The ruling has caused concern the range of political activities allowed for national government employees might surreptitiously be expanded little by little.

A former assistant division chief of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and a former employee of the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency were accused of violating the National Civil Service Law. The two distributed the Japanese Communist Party's leaflets at condominiums and other places, during the past House of Representatives election campaign, on their days off.

The top court found the former assistant division chief guilty but acquitted the former employee of the agency.

The law restricts political activities of national public servants, and rules of the National Personnel Authority based on the law clearly prohibit them from distributing political party leaflets.

We think it appropriate the top court first pointed out national government workers must fulfill their duties from politically nonjudgmental and neutral positions.


Part of ruling questionable

However, the rest of the judgment has come into question.

In the trial, the court attached weight to the positions of the two defendants. It said that the former assistant division chief was guilty because he was in a management post and could have affected services by other government employees by conducting political activities.

Meanwhile, the former agency employee could not have affected other workers by conducting political activities because he worked at a reception counter and in nonmanagement positions, according to the court.

However, we think this is merely a one-dimensional view. There must be some workers who exert powerful influence on colleagues regardless of their posts. For instance, leaders of labor unions at public offices are very influential but do not hold management positions.

The court said political activities by public servants shall be deemed illegal if they substantially influence the politically neutral administration of government after their positions and responsibilities are taken into consideration in a comprehensive manner. But we think this guideline is vague.

In 1974, the Supreme Court ruled the prohibition of political activities by national government employees regardless of their positions would not constitute a violation of the Constitution. We cannot understand why the latest ruling doesn't conform to this judicial precedent.


Tight restrictions needed

We are afraid the latest ruling might spread an interpretation that national government workers may engage in political activities as long as they do not hold management positions. Cases of government employees helping a ruling party distribute political leaflets could also be expected.

We are also concerned with the ruling's possible influences on places of education. Schoolteachers' political activities are also restricted in ways similar to national civil servants. The ruling might reproduce a case similar to the violations of the Political Funds Control Law by the Hokkaido Teachers Union, which came under criticism for its cozy relationship with the Democratic Party of Japan.

In conclusion, we believe political activities by public servants should be tightly restricted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2012)
(2012年12月8日01時24分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 8日 (土)

領土外交 冷静に主権を守る知恵が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 8, 2012)
Cool heads indispensable for territorial diplomacy
領土外交 冷静に主権を守る知恵が要る(12月7日付・読売社説)

Defending Japan's sovereignty and the integrity of its land and seas while achieving a breakthrough on issues involving them: We urge every political party to seriously and responsibly discuss specific measures to deal with these challenges.

In waters near Okinawa Prefecture's Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Chinese government vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters.

This summer, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak landed on Shimane Prefecture's Takeshima islets--which his country controls--in the Sea of Japan, while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a trip to the island of Kunashiri, one of Japan's Russian-held northern territories off eastern Hokkaido.

It is of high importance for this country to appeal to a wide spectrum of the international community to recognize the legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over the islands in question.

As rightly advocated by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Your Party, it is an urgent priority for Japan to strengthen its ability to communicate with the international community on these matters.


Be on alert night and day

Regarding the Senkaku problem, all major parties' pledges for the Dec. 16 general election, including those of the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito, are united in calling for the Japan Coast Guard to be given greater ability to deal with emergencies. Such calls are right and proper.

If China takes a high-handed stance over the problem, Japan must respond resolutely. But in non-emergency circumstances it should maintain control over the islands cool-headedly.

To do so, the JCG must conduct patrol and surveillance activities day and night and issue alerts every time a Chinese surveillance ship attempts to enter Japan's territorial waters.

There will be more cases in which the JCG must take measures to urge such Chinese vessels to leave the territorial waters.

Given that China has been rapidly increasing its number of surveillance ships, it is indispensable for Japan to beef up its fleet of patrol boats and the ranks of JCG personnel to ensure the ability to respond effectively.

Noteworthy in this connection is a proposal by the LDP to study the feasibility of stationing government officials on the Senkakus on a regular basis.

Nippon Ishin no Kai leader Shintaro Ishihara, for his part, has argued for building a port on one of the islands where Japanese fishermen could take shelter in stormy weather.


Avoid antiforeign nationalism

Although these proposals are understandable as medium- and long-term tasks to enhance Japan's control over the Senkakus, it should be kept in mind that such steps could touch off Chinese countermeasures, possibly leading to an extremely strained situation. The government must be circumspect.

With a view to coping with South Korea's claim to the Takeshima islets, the LDP has incorporated into its election platform a pledge for the central government to hold a ceremony on Feb. 22, which the Shimane prefectural government has proclaimed "Takeshima Day."

The LDP and Komeito advocate creating a new organization to be tasked with matters affecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We believe it is more important to boost collaboration and liaison among such existing government organs as the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the JCG, centering around the Prime Minister's Office, than to set up a new organization.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stressed in a recent street campaign speech, "Although wholesome nationalism is important, the country would be in jeopardy should nationalism descend into antiforeign rhetoric."

What Noda likely had in mind is radical statements by Ishihara, such as "We hate becoming a vassal state of China."

Japan has become closely intertwined economically with China and South Korea. Deterioration of the respective bilateral relationships would be bound to harm their national interests.

The task of constructing broad-range cooperative relations among the three countries is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity for all of Northeast Asia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2012)
(2012年12月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

日欧EPA 早期合意で劣勢を巻き返せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 8, 2012)
Early conclusion of Japan-EU EPA needed to catch up with S. Korea
日欧EPA 早期合意で劣勢を巻き返せ(12月7日付・読売社説)

Japan has lagged far behind South Korea in expanding economic partnership relationships with other countries and regional blocs. It needs to even the score by concluding an agreement with the European Union as soon as possible.

The council of EU trade ministers has decided to green-light the start of negotiations for an economic partnership agreement with Japan, which has been a pending issue between the two parties.

Japanese and EU leaders are expected to officially agree on the kickoff of talks as early as January.

The EU had been hesitant to agree to the start of the negotiations due to concerns over a possible surge in imports from Japan. Although it was a long path to reach this point, we welcome the decision by EU officials to sit at the negotiating table.

South Korea, an economic rival to Japan, began negotiations with the EU in 2007 on a free trade agreement, which took effect in July 2011. Under the FTA, the EU and South Korea will gradually lower tariffs on mineral and industrial products, among others, and completely abolish them in five years.


South Korean advantage

The EU levies high tariffs on imports from Japan and others--10 percent on automobiles and 14 percent on flat-screen TVs, for instance. In contrast, the tariff cuts on products from South Korea have started and Seoul has been benefitting from the deal. In the latter half of last year, South Korean automobile exports to the EU doubled compared to the same period in 2010.

It is only natural Japan's automobile and household appliance manufacturers, who are competing with their South Korean counterparts, have an increased sense of crisis. The government must accelerate the promotion of the EPA negotiations with the EU to improve Japan's disadvantageous position.

However, elements of the negotiations are not clear.

The EU said it will cancel the negotiations if it judges Japan's efforts toward market liberalization are insufficient one year after the talks begin. Japan should proceed with caution on this attitude demanding major concessions from Japan.

We are also concerned over the idea of the EU considering invoking a safeguard action--emergency import restriction--if imports of specific products from Japan sharply increase.

Aiming at participation in the Japanese market, the EU is reportedly ready to demand Japan to improve nontariff barriers such as easing safety standards for medical equipment and a review of government procurement in the rail and transportation fields, among others.


Negotiate tenaciously

It is basic in trade negotiations to expand the sphere of free trade, by seeking points of compromise while protecting certain products or industries. Japan should engage in the negotiations patiently, while considering the removal or improvement of nontariff barriers as much as possible.

A major reason behind the EU decision to start EPA negotiations is that Japan has begun preliminary talks toward possible participation in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership framework, a pan-Pacific EPA led by the United States. We believe the EU, which is not participating in the TPP talks, has a strong interest in the moves of Japan and the United States.

In such a situation, Japan should pursue a more strategic move to grab the EU's attention by participating in the TPP negotiations as early as possible to gain a position of strength in the EPA talks.

As it is quite important to provide momentum to the nation's economic growth with the expansion of free trade, Japan must promote a positive trade policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2012)
(2012年12月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 7日 (金)

再犯防止対策 就労と住居が更生のカギだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 7, 2012)
Jobs, housing are keys to preventing recidivism
再犯防止対策 就労と住居が更生のカギだ(12月6日付・読売社説)

The proportion of recidivists among the total number of perpetrators of crimes cleared by police and other investigative authorities has been increasing steadily since 1997. Last year, it hit a record-high 43.8 percent, according to the 2012 white paper on crime released recently by the Justice Ministry.

Preventing former prisoners from returning to crime is a crucial issue for ensuring the nation's public safety.

About 70 percent of those who returned to prison after committing further crimes had no job. Moreover, half of those who turned to crime within three months of being released had no home to return to, according to the white paper.

Considering that about 28,000 people are released from prison each year, it is understandable that the white paper calls for helping them find jobs and places to live, in addition to providing correctional education programs at prisons.

The job market, however, is becoming grimmer amid the anemic economy.


Woeful shortage of living places

Currently, about 10,000 companies nationwide are registered with local probation service offices as employers willing to hire people released from prison. Nonetheless, only 758 past offenders were working at such businesses as of April.

The ministry has been taking steps to encourage registered companies to hire more former inmates, such as providing cash incentives to firms that hire them for a trial period.

It is important to beef up these efforts to provide more employment opportunities to former convicts.

Across Japan, 104 rehabilitation facilities operated by the private sector provide places to stay for those released from prison. However, it has been pointed out that these facilities suffer a chronic capacity shortage and can accommodate only 2,300 people.

The white paper describes a new program introduced in April last year to address this shortfall. Under this program, apartment buildings or houses owned by private-sector organizations and individuals are provided as homes for people released from incarceration while they prepare to become self-reliant members of society.

About 800 people used the homes during the first year alone.

These homes are run in collaboration with private-sector bodies, including nonprofit organizations knowledgeable about how to support needy people. The program is noteworthy as a new private-public initiative.


Ministry must play central role

There has been plenty of head-scratching over how to prevent recidivism by former prisoners released after completing their sentences.

Convicts released on parole before completing their full sentences are supposed to be rehabilitated by the time their terms would have ended under the guidance of local probation service offices and volunteer probation officers.

By contrast, there are no legal grounds for monitoring people released after completing their full sentences behind bars, which means they have to try to lead a normal life back in society without a "warmup period."

Twenty-nine percent of prisoners released on parole return to prison within five years of being released. This rate jumps to 51 percent for those released after completing their sentences.

In June this year, a man who had just been released from prison after completing his sentence stabbed two people to death in a random attack in the Shinsaibashi district of central Osaka.

The Justice Ministry should play the central role in promoting counseling services and other assistance for people released from prison after completing their sentences.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2012)
(2012年12月6日01時09分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

財政再建 借金大国からの脱却目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 7, 2012)
Parties must confront nation's debt dependence
財政再建 借金大国からの脱却目指せ(12月6日付・読売社説)

What can be done to rebuild the nation's finances, which are the worst among advanced nations? Financial reconstruction is an issue that will heavily influence Japan's future.

However, there has not been very much debate on the issue in the campaigning for the Dec. 16 general election. Parties must show their resolve in dealing with this problem.

Japan's finances are facing a critical situation. Tax revenues have been continuing to decrease due to the prolonged economic downturn following the bursting of the bubble economy in the 1990s. At the same time, welfare costs have ballooned due to the rapid aging of the population, and successive economic stimulus packages have swelled expenditures.

Annual government bond issuance to fill the gap between tax revenues and expenditures has been in the 50 trillion yen range in recent years. About half of the 90 trillion yen general account budget for fiscal 2012 was procured from the issuance of bonds. The nation's dependence on borrowing is serious.

It is appalling that the issuance of new bonds has exceeded tax revenues for three years in a row. If today's excessively low interest rates begin climbing upward, the burden of interest payments will increase significantly, making it even more difficult for the government to rebuild its finances.


Show path to rebuild finances

In their campaign platforms, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party both have stated a goal of achieving a surplus in the primary balance by fiscal 2020 so that the government could secure policy-related expenses mainly from tax revenues without issuing new bonds. However, both parties have failed to show concrete methods on how to achieve the goal.

The first step toward sound public finances is to steadily implement the two-stage consumption tax hike scheduled to take place in April 2014 and October 2015 and to move forward the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems. Even after the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent, the government is expected to face an uphill battle to rebuild the nation's finances.

However, such parties as Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan), the Japanese Communist Party and Your Party have taken positions against the consumption tax hike, claiming that the government should trim wasteful budget spending first. We wonder how they would cover the surge of welfare costs without a tax hike.

There is no room for the government to fall deeper into debt by further relying on government bonds, and ask future generations to clean up the mess. It is difficult to call them responsible parties as long as they tout overly optimistic future prospects that have no foundation and evade taking necessary measures that would be painful.


Ishin's problematic proposal

There are also problems in the aim of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) to make the consumption tax a local tax after raising its rate to 11 percent.

Will it ever be possible for local governments to collect consumption tax by themselves without the help of the central government, and distribute the money properly? It is also doubtful the central government would be able to find other revenue sources to cover social security costs.

Looking at parties' campaign platforms, we have to say their efforts on spending cuts are far from sufficient. The platforms include plans to support farming and implement public works projects, measures that could result in recklessly handing out taxpayers' money. The LDP has pledged to cut personnel expenses of government officials and to review livelihood protection allowances, but their effect on spending cuts will be small.

It will be important for the government to preferentially allocate limited budget resources to economic fields expected to grow in the near future, as this may result in increased tax revenues. We urge parties to more fully debate budgetary reforms that challenge the vested interests of the people concerned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2012)
(2012年12月6日01時09分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 6日 (木)

衆院選公示 確かな日本の針路見据えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 6, 2012)
Voters--pick the party that offers solid course for Japan
衆院選公示 確かな日本の針路見据えたい(12月5日付・読売社説)


Can Japan maintain its national strength, or will it stray down a course of decline? In the upcoming House of Representatives election, voters will make an extremely important choice that will decide the future course of Japan.

Official campaigning has started for the 46th lower house election. It is an unusual election in that it is being contested by 12 political parties, including the two major ones--the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party.

In his first stump speech, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the question in this election is "whether we move forward or return to old politics." He stressed that his party aims to become the largest party in the lower house. LDP President Shinzo Abe, meanwhile, said, "Together with New Komeito, the LDP will definitely win a majority and take back power." All eyes are on whether the DPJ or the LDP will end up holding the tiller of government.


3rd force may affect new govt

If Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) and Your Party, which aim to become a third major force to rival the DPJ and the LDP, grow stronger, they could affect the framework of the new administration.

While Abe scotched suggestions his party might form a coalition government with the DPJ, he said cooperation with Ishin no Kai remains an option.

Even if the LDP becomes the largest party in the lower chamber, it still does not have a majority in the House of Councillors--even with the help of Komeito and Ishin no Kai. Consequently, the Diet likely will remain divided until the upper house election in summer next year.

With elections being what they are, it is natural for political parties to compete with each other. However, they will also need to maneuver with one eye on the possibility of forming a coalition or partial alliance after the election. Parties are being tested on how they will break away from "politics characterized by indecision."

Cooperation between the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito is indispensable for steadily carrying out integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, the main pillar of which is to raise the consumption tax rate.

The consumption tax increase is necessary for rebuilding state finances, which are teetering on the brink, and maintaining the social security system. It was only recently that the national council for revamping the social security system was launched under the initiative of the three parties. The council's discussions must be accelerated further.

Fearing for their political survival, many former lower house members who bolted from the DPJ joined new parties and oppose the tax increase. If they insist on taking this stance, they should present realistic steps for securing the resources needed to fund social security and reconstructing public finances.

Simply insisting they will "cut waste in administration" is too simplistic.


Zero nuclear option irresponsible

Parties are also at odds over policies on nuclear power and energy.

Although the DPJ and the LDP will both allow nuclear reactors to be reactivated after confirmation they are safe to operate, the LDP said it will not form a conclusion on the future of nuclear power plants right away.


The DPJ, on the other hand, aims to end the nation's reliance on nuclear power generation in the 2030s. Mirai no To calls for abolishing nuclear generation in 10 years, while Your Party says it will end nuclear reliance in the 2020s. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party champion ending nuclear generation immediately.

It is irresponsible to call for ending the use of nuclear power. Parties that trumpet this stance must explain in detail how they would ensure a stable power supply and deal with the inevitable negative impacts on the economy, employment and household spending, and the drain of Japan's nuclear engineers. Without doing so, their arguments will not be compelling to voters.

Taking the "zero nuclear" option will erode Japan's strength, and clearly make it more difficult to provide full social security programs and guarantee national security.

The most important task right now is economic revitalization. Conquering deflation and the ultra-strong yen will be essential for achieving an economic recovery.

The LDP has laid out an inflation target of 2 percent, and plans to implement bold monetary easing to achieve this goal. We applaud this policy.

Many parties, including the DPJ and the LDP, list economic growth as one of their campaign pledges. But they have failed to present a clear vision for achieving it.

It is important that voters scrutinize the parties' campaign platforms to find out which party offers effective economic stimulus and monetary policies.

The diplomatic and security environments surrounding Japan have been going through dramatic changes.

The DPJ-led administration's ham-fisted handling of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station badly strained the Japan-U.S. alliance. Chinese marine surveillance ships have regularly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and North Korea announced it is preparing to test-launch a ballistic missile.

The DPJ, the LDP and Ishin no Kai have quite rightly called for bolstering and deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance. Improving relations with Washington will be necessary also as a check against China, which has been expanding its military and economic presence. Allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense could be an effective tool for that purpose.


Discuss constitutional revision

Political parties also have a responsibility to deepen discussions about revising the Constitution to present a new vision for Japan.

Voters, for their part, must be careful not to be swayed by populist slogans and sentiments. The parties' pledges include hardly any calls for increasing public burdens, except for the consumption tax increase. Why? The nation cannot just keep kicking the fiscal deficit can down the road for the next generation to deal with.

In the previous 2009 lower house election, many voters got swept up by the climate of "letting the DPJ lead the nation for once." Will similar expectations be held this time for parties striving to become a third political force?

We hope voters will listen closely to what candidates say during the campaign to determine which party offers prescriptions that can address the tough challenges the country faces.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2012)
(2012年12月5日01時28分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 5日 (水)

震災復興 歩みを加速させる具体策示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 5, 2012)
Parties need clear plans for disaster reconstruction
震災復興 歩みを加速させる具体策示せ(12月4日付・読売社説)

The first House of Representatives election since the Great East Japan Earthquake officially kicks off Tuesday.

How should reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, which has seen significant delays, be accelerated? Each party's policies will be scrutinized in the election campaign.

Leaders of four parties, including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe, picked Fukushima Prefecture to deliver the first speeches of their campaigns. This is probably to show their commitment to focus on reconstruction from the March 11, 2011, disaster.

In its policy pledges, the DPJ said, "Without reconstruction [from the disaster], there can be no reconstruction for Japan." The party said it would promote such measures as the relocation of residents to higher ground and the creation of jobs.

The LDP pledged the government would be "responsible for securing necessary project funds without limitations." The party considers reconstruction from the disaster a top priority in promoting its plan to "strengthen the nation's land."

It can be said all these measures are vital for disaster-hit areas.


Stop misuse of funds

It has been learned some of the funds allocated for reconstruction projects were diverted to projects far removed from contributing to the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas. Learning a lesson from this, the new administration will be tasked with effectively implementing reconstruction budgets.

In disaster-hit areas, there is strong discontent over the current administration's slow progress on reconstruction. A year and eight months have passed since the disaster, but piles of debris remain and relocation to higher ground has yet to be realized in any of these areas.

The "reconstruction acceleration" called for by each party must not end up a mere empty slogan. It is important each party show clear, highly effective measures with the actual conditions of disaster-hit areas being taken into account.

The shortage of construction materials and manpower in these areas is indeed a serious problem. Many repairs to roads and seawalls destroyed by tsunami have been suspended or delayed.

A shortage of ready-mixed concrete is particularly serious. In Sendai, large volumes of concrete have been used for a subway construction project, which has further exacerbated the shortage.

When large-scale construction projects, such as those to elevate low-lying areas, move into full gear, the ready-mixed concrete shortage will become more and more acute.

It is necessary to strengthen the coordination function of the Reconstruction Agency and establish systems to help construction companies procure necessary materials.


Depopulation a serious concern

After being hit by an earthquake centered off southwest Hokkaido in 1993, communities on Okushiri Island relocated to higher ground. But the disaster spurred people's departure there and the population has decreased by 30 percent since the quake.

Many areas hardest hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake were facing depopulation even before the disaster. Local governments are likely to make restoration and repairs a top priority, as failing to help people get their lives back in order in the immediate future could accelerate an exodus of the population.

What kind of communities should be formed, and how should they be invigorated? How can jobs be created? It is essential for promising ideas to be presented. We consider it the responsibility of the national government to help revive communities to create places where people want to continue to live.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2012)
(2012年12月4日01時43分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

北ミサイル予告 発射阻止へ国際連携の強化を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 5, 2012)
Multilateral cooperation needed to stop missile launch
北ミサイル予告 発射阻止へ国際連携の強化を(12月4日付・読売社説)

North Korea recently announced it would launch a long-range ballistic missile between Monday and Dec. 22 under the guise of sending a "satellite" into orbit.

However hard Pyongyang insists that its plan is to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes, the mechanism used to launch a missile is the same as that used to launch a satellite. It is a clear violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting North Korea from conducting nuclear tests and "any launch using ballistic missile technology."

This is a serious provocation to the international community.

After North Korea launched its last missile in April, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement expressing the council's "determination to take action accordingly" if the country launched another missile or conducted a nuclear test.

We urge the Security Council to take decisive action over North Korea's reckless plan, which openly ignores the warnings of the international community.

Pyongyang said the new missile launch is being conducted on the instructions of Kim Jong Il, who died in December 2011.


North Korea's intentions

The missile launch is believed to be part of North Korea's program to strengthen the country's nuclear deterrence capability--initiated by Kim--through the development of nuclear programs, extending the range of ballistic missiles and improving their accuracy. We assume the administration of Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il's successor, also is trying to cement its authority.

Japan's House of Representatives election and South Korea's presidential election will be held during the period the missile is scheduled to be launched. In recent months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been reelected and China's Xi Jinping took over the reins of the Communist Party.

The fact that Pyongyang has timed the launch to coincide with a period when these nations face difficulty in coordinating policies against its actions indicates North Korea aims to learn how each country will react.

Although North Korea apparently is trying to undermine the international alliance against the country, the international community should not allow North Korea the slightest chance of success. Countries concerned, such as Japan, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia, should join hands to pressure North Korea to cancel the missile launch.

North Korea says it has studied the reasons why the launch in April failed and has succeeded in improving the reliability of the missile it plans to launch this month. There is speculation that Iran and other countries have provided technological assistance.

This suggests U.N. sanctions have not been implemented thoroughly and lack substance. The Security Council's sanctions on North Korea included an embargo on exports by other countries of materials related to nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as luxury goods. It also ordered suspicious cargo to be inspected.


Learn lessons from April launch

China especially has a heavy responsibility for North Korea's actions, as a permanent member of the Security Council, a neighbor and its largest trading partner.

It was appropriate for the Japanese government to have taken concrete measures against the missile launch immediately after North Korea's announcement.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has decided to postpone intergovernment talks with North Korea, which were scheduled to begin Wednesday. Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto has ordered Self-Defense Forces to prepare its missile defense system to shoot down the North Korean missile. The government plans to host a meeting of the nation's Security Council this week and issue an order to destroy the missile if it strays over Japanese territory.

When Pyongyang launched its missile in April, the government displayed remarkable confusion in confirming information on the launch. We urge the government to learn from this bitter lesson and make a wholehearted effort to pass along information collected by the early warning system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2012)
(2012年12月4日01時43分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 4日 (火)

三菱重と日立 攻めの統合で世界3強目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 4, 2012)
MHI-Hitachi integration good model to emulate
三菱重と日立 攻めの統合で世界3強目指せ(12月3日付・読売社説)

The business integration between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Hitachi, Ltd. is aimed at making inroads in emerging economies, particularly in the growing Asian market. This could be a model for Japanese high-technology companies to follow if they want to survive in the face of global competition.

The two firms have reached a basic agreement to integrate their businesses in the field of thermal power generation, including turbines. They will establish a joint venture company in around January 2014.

The two companies also plan to consolidate their business operations in the fields of geothermal power and fuel cells. It is significant that a mega-sized electric power infrastructure firm will be created, with sales totaling more than 1 trillion yen.

MHI President Hideaki Omiya said at a press conference, "We will compete in overseas markets, rather than waging a war of attrition among Japanese companies." Hitachi President Hiroaki Nakanishi emphasized that the integration signified "the strongest combination [of technology and human resources]."

The two companies were probably prompted to make such a bold decision by their sense of crisis over the harsh business environment.


Nuclear plant business suffering

Since the crisis erupted at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, construction or enlargement of nuclear power plants have ceased for the time being in Japan, sending a cold wind through both companies as the nuclear power business is their main field of operations.

As business operations of electric power firms, which are important customers for MHI and Hitachi, have deteriorated, it is inevitable that the power generation market, including thermal power, will contract in this country.

On the other hand, newly emerging countries, such as those in Southeast Asia, are seeing their electric power infrastructure market expanding in line with their economic growth. As a result, the competition between Japanese companies and their foreign rivals, such as firms in South Korea, China, Europe and United States, is becoming fierce.

It was against this backdrop that MHI, which is strong in the field of large-scale thermal power generation systems, and Hitachi, which prevails in the field of small and medium-scale power generation systems, integrated in the hope of generating synergies and making inroads in foreign markets. Their decision is fitting.


Compete with Big 2

In the field of power generation infrastructure, Siemens AG of Germany and General Electric Co. of the United States are the two most powerful companies. The two Japanese firms will lag far behind in terms of management strength even after integration. They will face the challenge of coming up with business strategies to compete with Siemens and GE.

Despite their latest move, the two Japanese firms must decide sooner or later to expand their business integration, such as in the field of nuclear power generation.

The integration decision by MHI and Hitachi has set alarm bells ringing among other business sectors.

Electrical appliance makers, which face fierce rivalry from firms in South Korea and other countries, have been burdened by massive deficits, making it extremely important for them to rebuild their managements.

Japan also has so many automakers that they are continuously fighting a war of attrition with foreign rivals at home and abroad, such as in the European and U.S. markets, as well as China and other emerging markets.

Advanced technologies are essential. However, they alone will not be sufficient for Japanese firms to prevail in the global market. It is important for Japanese firms to ascertain their growth fields and make a strenuous effort to pinpoint and focus on business fields to capture emerging markets.

This concept should be applied not only to other manufacturing sectors, but also to nonmanufacturing companies, such as firms in the services sector.

While rethinking their strategies, they should also consider drastically reorganizing business sectors or integrating across industrial business sectors.

We hope Japanese businesses wield their power more competitively in the world's growing markets and help revitalize the Japanese economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2012)
(2012年12月3日01時30分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

トンネル崩落 老朽建造物の総点検が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 4, 2012)
Aging tunnels, expressways need to be checked
トンネル崩落 老朽建造物の総点検が急務だ(12月3日付・読売社説)

A terrible accident occurred on a major expressway Sunday.

A large section of the ceiling collapsed inside the Sasago Tunnel of the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, burying several vehicles and causing some of them to catch fire.

Eight-centimeter-thick concrete panels reportedly fell suddenly from the ceiling over a length of 110 meters. Several bodies were found in the buried vehicles. Some people escaped from the tunnel by themselves but suffered burns and other injuries.

"The ceiling collapsed like an avalanche," one witness said. The terrifying tunnel accident is simply chilling.

Some people possibly remain trapped under the rubble. We hope the police and firefighters will do everything they can to rescue any survivors, while taking care not to disturb any unstable slabs that could also come down.

The Chuo Expressway, like the Tomei Expressway, is a major artery linking the Tokyo metropolitan area with the Kansai region. The 4.7-kilometer Sasago Tunnel opened to traffic in 1977.


Tunnel passed checks

Central Nippon Expressway Co., the operator of the Chuo Expressway, said it conducted visual and other inspections inside the tunnel in September, but found nothing wrong with the panels that hang from the upper part of the tunnel to permit ventilation.

Had the structure deteriorated due to age? The police and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry must thoroughly pinpoint the cause of the collapse. How maintenance and checkups should be conducted also needs to be examined.

More than 10 tunnels with similar structures to the Sasago Tunnel have been built across the country. These tunnels must be urgently inspected.

After 20 people were killed in the 1996 collapse of the Toyohama Tunnel in Hokkaido, all tunnels across Japan were checked. Couldn't lessons from this tragedy have been used more effectively?

During the period of high economic growth that began in the 1970s, government spending on public works projects for expanding social infrastructure increased sharply.


Structures crumbling

Expressways and other structures built during this period have aged considerably, and, experts say, some are becoming dangerous to use. One prime concern is that concrete in these structures is reaching the end of its fatigue life.

According to the infrastructure ministry, tunnels and elevated sections of the nation's expressways alone required repairs at about 555,000 locations in 2011. This is more than 10 times the 47,000 spots that needed repairs in 2005.

From the viewpoint of preparing for a major earthquake as part of disaster-prevention measures, aged structures must be quickly given comprehensive inspections.

With the government in dire fiscal straits, there are strong, persistent calls for cutting back on public works spending. Indeed, wasteful expenditures must be reined in.

But dangerous structures, if left as they are, threaten the safety of the public. Budgets should be allocated preferentially for repairing crumbling facilities.

This will be a major issue for the new government that comes to power following the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2012)
(2012年12月3日01時30分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 3日 (月)

経済成長戦略 「高い目標」の実現策で論戦を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 3, 2012)
Political parties should explain their high-growth strategies
経済成長戦略 「高い目標」の実現策で論戦を(12月2日付・読売社説)

The mid- and long-term economic growth strategies drafted by parties in their campaigns for the upcoming House of Representatives election are of particular interest to voters.

Japan's nominal growth rate has been faltering at an average of nearly zero percent for the past 20 years. Many parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party, set high economic growth targets such as 3 percent or more in their election pledges. However, it is noteworthy that the contents of their policy measures, which should be crucially important, are often not new and made only to try to please everyone.

Voters should consider which party is likely to focus on viable policy measures and carry them out expeditiously. It is also important to determine which party is expected to stimulate the vitality of the private sector through deregulation while establishing political leadership capable of eliminating sectionalism among government offices.

We expect political parties to actively discuss measures aimed at realizing their growth strategies so they do not end up as empty slogans.


Reflect on policy missteps

Serious reflection on mistakes made in past economic policies must be the first step in rethinking growth strategies. Though the DPJ-led government trumpeted the slogan "from concrete to people," its dole-out policies such as child-rearing allowances were ineffective.

Domestic demand could be boosted by public works projects that contribute to improved safety and economic development, such as refurbishment of aged transportation systems and construction of facilities to minimize damage from large earthquakes.

Each party should present clear guidelines on infrastructure development.

To promote consumption, rebuilding the nation's social security system to alleviate public anxieties over the future is the key to make people spend excessive savings on something tangible. To make this possible, the consumption tax hike is essential to secure a stable revenue source for the social security system.

However, it is impossible to avoid the contraction of domestic demand as the nation ages and population shrinks. It is therefore essential to enhance the strategy to increase foreign demand. Japan must promote free trade rapidly to take advantage of the economic growth of other Asian countries.

Whether Japan should participate in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations is an issue of utmost importance. But the DPJ and the LDP have not stated clearly that the nation should join the TPP talks out of consideration for agricultural organizations, which oppose such negotiations. We consider this a problem.


Infrastructure exports

Meanwhile, the international competitiveness of electrical home appliances and other Japanese products has been declining to a worrisome level. We hope the private and government sectors work together to overcome this problem.

Whether a company can win a bid to export infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and the Shinkansen bullet train system is determined on the overall strength of a company from construction to operation and safety management. This gives Japanese companies an edge as they generally excel in work that requires extreme precision.

Hitachi, Ltd. has launched its own nuclear business by purchasing a nuclear operator in Britain, while Toshiba Corp. is expanding nuclear power plant businesses abroad. It is encouraging to see private companies making challenging inroads on the international scene.

However, the DPJ and many other parties are casting a damper on corporate efforts to export Japanese nuclear power plants by pledging to abolish nuclear power generation in this country. They should realize that denuclearization is having a negative effect on Japan's growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 2, 2012)
(2012年12月2日01時04分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

社会保障会議 制度の安定に負担を求めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 3, 2012)
Heavier burdens inevitable for sustainable social security
社会保障会議 制度の安定に負担を求めよ(12月2日付・読売社説)

A newly launched expert council on the future of the nation's social security system will need to hold exhaustive discussions on ways to ensure people can live with peace of mind.

The national council for reform of the social security system has been inaugurated to deliberate the future shape of social security.

The head of the council, Keio University President Atsushi Seike, said at its first meeting Friday he hopes the council will develop "logical discussions as a group of experts."

It is crucial that the 15-member council, whose deadline for presenting its conclusions is set by law for August next year, hammer out measures for transforming the existing social security system--which has been fraying because of Japan's rapidly aging population coupled with a low birthrate--into a solid, sustainable framework.

While benefit payments have snowballed, premiums and tax revenues for funding these expenses have been floundering. The disruption in the balance between benefit payments and the burden on the public to finance the system is leading it to the precipice.

Government debts to make up for the revenue shortfall have ballooned.


Do away with inequities

The new council plans to ensure necessary social security services can be provided while "curbing the increasing financial burden on the people."

However, it would be all but impossible to maintain the system without asking the public to fairly shoulder a burden commensurate with their income level.

People aged 70 to 74 pay 10 percent of their medical fees from their own pocket, although the rate set by law is 20 percent. The medical bill burden for people in this age bracket is substantially lower than that of people younger or older than them. This has generated a sense of inequality. We think the supposedly provisional measure should be quickly removed so people aged 70 to 74 pay 20 percent of their medical bills.

Social security benefits will inevitably be curbed. In addition, pension benefits must be lowered in accordance with the falling wage levels of working generations currently paying pension premiums.

Steps to boost the low birthrate also are urgently needed.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, Japanese government spending on child care support is less than one-third that of the expenditures of nations such as France and Sweden, which have turned around their low birthrates. Effective social security measures, including expanding day care services for children, and ways to secure revenue, must be worked out.

The council will discuss four main issues: medical services, nursing care services, pensions and ways of reversing the low birthrate. Yet another issue--employment--must not be left unaddressed.


3-party cooperation vital

The council is expected to include in its agenda how to improve the working conditions of nonregular employees who are not covered by social security insurance plans despite earning low wages.

To translate the council's conclusions into concrete policies, cooperation between the Democratic party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito will be vital.

The DPJ has been arguing for the creation of a guaranteed minimum pension system and abolition of the special medical care service arrangements for people 75 or older. Both DPJ goals are unrealistic and opposed by the LDP and Komeito.

After the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election, the three parties, in parallel with discussions by the national council, must hold consultations and find solutions to these issues.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), for its part, wants to change the pay-as-you-go pension system, under which benefits for current pensioners are funded by premiums paid by workers, into a funded pension system under which premiums paid by workers fund the pension they receive after retirement.

Another new party, Nippon Mirai no To (Japan future party), has trumpeted the creation of a minimum pension guarantee system.

The feasibility of these arguments is questionable. Nevertheless, these arguments could affect deliberations by the council, depending on the results of the lower house election.

Every party must be well aware of the importance of stably maintaining the nation's social security system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 2, 2012)
(2012年12月2日01時04分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 2日 (日)

11党の討論会 政策実現性で競うべき党首力

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 2, 2012)
Party leaders should compete on strength of feasible policies
11党の討論会 政策実現性で競うべき党首力(12月1日付・読売社説)

Sitting in a row, 11 leaders of political parties made various assertions on issues. The scene reflected the disarray in the nation's politics.

Organized by the Japan National Press Club, a debate was held Friday among the party leaders. It could hardly be said that they always responded directly to each others' arguments, but at least each party's basic stance on key issues became clear.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stressed that his Democratic Party of Japan will make all-out efforts to abandon nuclear energy in the 2030s. As if competing over the speed at which they would achieve zero nuclear reliance, other party leaders presented different goals, with one calling for the immediate abandonment of nuclear power and another referring to an exit from nuclear power in 10 years or so.

However, we think such assertions by political parties, which deal with state affairs, are irresponsible as long as they are unable to show clear road maps for achieving zero reliance, by clearly anticipating such factors as economic variables and advances in alternative energy technology.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe raised the concern that seeking denuclearization could have a negative impact on the nation's economy and employment and discourage engineers from pursuing careers in the field of nuclear energy. Therefore, he said, "Zero reliance shouldn't be called for lightly." This view is reasonable.

Meanwhile, Shintaro Ishihara, the leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), played down calls for nuclear zero dependence as "a sort of desire" and expressed his intention to review his party's election pledge calling for nuclear power to be phased out by the 2030s. We think this praiseworthy.


Significance of sales tax hikes

As for increases in the consumption tax rate, Noda said, "Without securing a stable revenue source, we can't provide firm reassurances to people regarding receiving pension benefits and medical and nursing care."

Three major parties--the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito--should explain to the people once again the significance of the integrated reform of social security and tax systems to win public understanding.

Nippon Mirai no To (Japan future party), which opposes consumption tax hikes, pledges to thoroughly eliminate wasteful spending before raising the sales tax. But it is obvious that such a policy would only lead the nation's already teetering finances to collapse.

Opposing tax increases without offering any specific alternatives to raise funds is nothing but posturing to please the public.


Parties at odds over TPP

As for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and economic pact, Yoshimi Watanabe, leader of Your Party, which supports Japan's participation in the TPP talks, said, "The TPP multilateral framework, which excludes China, has strategic meaning to create a balance of power."

This was apparent criticism of the LDP's taking a cautious stance on TPP participation out of consideration for relations with China.

During the debate, Abe only said, "We'd like to handle [this issue] with improved negotiating power while scrutinizing whether we can overcome the hurdle of eliminating tariffs without exception." His remarks on the TPP issue left something to be desired.

The official campaign for the House of Representatives election kicks off Tuesday. The party heads should exercise their leadership by addressing voters' concerns seriously and presenting convincing policy measures rather than merely striving to raise the profile of their parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2012)
(2012年12月1日01時21分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

パレスチナ 「国家」格上げを和平につなげ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 2, 2012)
Palestine's upgraded U.N. status should lead to peace with Israel
パレスチナ 「国家」格上げを和平につなげ(12月1日付・読売社説)

The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly for a resolution upgrading Palestine's status at the world body from an observer entity to a nonmember observer state.

Unlike a member country of the United Nations, an observer state does not have the right to vote. Nonetheless, it has a significant symbolic meaning for the Palestinian autonomous government to be treated as a state by the international community. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the resolution, saying, "Indeed, today is a historic day."

Abbas apparently wants to take advantage of the resolution to recover his government's political clout. It is important to capitalize on the international community's support to resume peace negotiations with Israel.


Involve Hamas in peace talks

However, the reality is harsh.

Israel is accusing the Palestinian autonomous government of unilaterally lobbying for support for the resolution upgrading it to an observer state.

Of even greater concern to the autonomous government is the increasing influence of the Islamist group Hamas, its rival within Palestine.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, which faces the Mediterranean Sea. When it traded fire with Israel in November, many people were shocked to see that rockets Hamas launched from Gaza landed in Tel Aviv, Israel's largest commercial city.

It seems that behind the improvement of Hamas' military capability is military cooperation with Iran.

The situation worsened to a perilous crisis in which Israel prepared for a ground invasion of Gaza. However, Hamas and Israel managed to reach a ceasefire agreement at the last minute thanks to mediation by Egypt.

However, mutual distrust between Israel and Hamas is deep-rooted. Hamas is urging Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, while Israel is demanding that Hamas stop smuggling weapons into Gaza. Conditions acceptable to both sides must be created as soon as possible to maintain the armistice.


Talks without Hamas unrealistic

It is not realistic for the Palestinian autonomous government to hold peace negotiations with Israel without Hamas if its growing influence is taken into consideration.

However, the biggest obstacle is that Hamas adamantly rejects peaceful coexistence with Israel.

Egypt could play a major role to help the parties resume peace talks. For instance, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist himself, is willing to serve as an intermediary between Hamas and Israel. We expect him to encourage Hamas to take a more realistic stance.

Meanwhile, Japan voted for the U.N. resolution this time, holding the line against the United States, which opposed it. It is significant for Japan to maintain connections with the autonomous government, which have been developed for many years through Japan's assistance to Palestine.

If Palestine ignites confusions in the Middle East, it would deliver a serious blow to the energy strategy of Japan, which depends on the region for 80 percent of its crude oil imports. Tokyo must keep indirectly helping Palestine and Israel resume peace negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2012)
(2012年12月1日01時21分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

2012年12月 1日 (土)

都知事選告示 東京の将来像示す政策論議を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 1, 2012)
Tokyo candidates must present vision of ideal future for capital
都知事選告示 東京の将来像示す政策論議を(11月30日付・読売社説)

The official start of the Tokyo gubernatorial campaign Thursday began the process of choosing either a continuation of the policies Shintaro Ishihara pursued during his slightly more than three terms in office, or a significant shift away from the political atmosphere of the past 13-1/2 years.

Voting and vote counting will be held Dec. 16, the same day as the national House of Representatives election. Due to the rare double election, voter turnout rate is expected to be higher than is usually seen in single elections.

The focus now turns to how voters who have no specific party affiliation will vote. We hope voters will carefully examine each candidate's platform when deciding how to cast their valuable ballots for the sake of Tokyo's future.

Nine people are contesting the race. Among the four major candidates, former Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose has been anointed by Ishihara as his chosen successor. Inose also has the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

Kenji Utsunomiya, the former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, is supported by Nippon Mirai no To (Japan future party), the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Japan. Former Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa and former LDP General Council Chairman Takashi Sasagawa are running campaigns without the support of any political parties.


What to do with Shinginko Tokyo?

The national ruling Democratic Party of Japan, despite holding the largest bloc in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, could not field a candidate and has told party members vote as they see fit.

Inose is arguing that Ishihara's policies should be continued, while the other major candidates are calling for fresh ideas. The greatest divide is over what to do about Shinginko Tokyo, which is seen by many as a negative legacy of the Ishihara era.

Ishihara pushed to establish the metropolitan-backed bank to help small and midsize companies raise capital. However, the bank has fallen into trouble due to poorly planned loans and overall weak performance. The metropolitan government has already sunk 140 billion yen in tax revenue into the venture.

Inose says the bank just needs reconstruction, while the three other main candidates have pledged to sell or liquidate it. We believe the burden on metropolitan residents should not be increased any further, and hope the four main candidates will present more concrete plans that can be implemented quickly.

Regarding the crucial issue of nuclear power, Utsunomiya and Sasagawa argue that Japan should move away from its dependence on atomic energy.

As Tokyo consumes a huge amount of electricity, an unstable electricity supply would paralyze urban functions. Since the governor is responsible for protecting Tokyo residents' lifestyles, we see it as irresponsible for a candidate to support a policy that does not include nuclear power when there is no prospect of securing sufficient alternative energy sources to replace nuclear power.


Keep the flame alive

Tokyo is currently seeking to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Three of the candidates have pledged to continue the bid, while Utsunomiya has taken a cautious stance, saying, "I want to decide after listening to the opinions of the people of Tokyo."

Hosting the Olympics would serve as a catalyst to energize the entire country, so we hope the new governor will lead the campaign to bring the games to Tokyo.

It is also important for the new governor to speed up preparations for a major earthquake that could directly strike the metropolitan area. Tokyo needs to further improve its plans for assisting people stranded far from home by a major disaster.

And finally, as can be seen in the growing problem of elderly people living alone, effective measures to cope with the graying population are an urgent need.

We hope the gubernatorial candidates will engage in lively discussions over the various issues facing Tokyo.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 30, 2012)
(2012年11月30日01時28分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

維新の会公約 二枚看板だけの戦いにするな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 1, 2012)
Ishin no Kai must offer more than Ishihara, Hashimoto names
維新の会公約 二枚看板だけの戦いにするな(11月30日付・読売社説)

There can be no denying that the campaign pledges announced Thursday by Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) for the upcoming general election are half-baked and seemingly hastily prepared.

We fear the newly formed party is not ready to achieve its professed goal of taking the reins of government.

In a news conference the same day, party leader Shintaro Ishihara stated his party "will dismantle the rigid administrative control of the central government bureaucrats," declaring the party will drastically review the nation's state of being.

The Democratic Party of Japan too once tooted the horn of "rooting out the vested interests of Kasumigaseki," Tokyo's government district, but the DPJ has failed to realize many of its policy pledges. We cannot help but feel Ishin no Kai is making the same flimsy but treacherous move, which gained the DPJ much publicity but amounted to little.

Voters should not be expected to evaluate Ishin no Kai simply through the personal characteristics of Ishihara and the party's acting leader Toru Hashimoto.

We urge the party to develop its current platform into a well-thought-out package of persuasive, feasible policies.


Short on specifics

The party's platform called the pitiful state of government finances "unsustainable," though when it came to how to achieve fiscal rehabilitation, the party equivocated.

With social security expenses swelling by 1 trillion yen per year, new revenue sources are urgently needed, but Ishin no Kai failed to mention anything more concrete than creating a special inheritance tax to fund pension payments. Furthermore, the party said the consumption tax--the bulwark that shores up the social security system--should be turned over to full local control.

Ishin no Kai's campaign pledges do not present effective remedies for the nation's challenges, such as the fiscal crisis and constructing a sustainable pension and health-care systems.

Meanwhile, the party seems to be vacillating on its nuclear energy policy.

Its platform sets a goal of "breaking the nation's dependence on nuclear power generation," and says existing nuclear plants would "fade out by the 2030s as a result," but the party failed here as well to get specific.

It is also problematic that Ishin no Kai's platform does not explain how to handle the issue of reactivating the nation's mostly idle nuclear reactors. If the party supports continuing to use nuclear power for at least the time being, it should say so in its platform.

Although the party deserves praise for supporting revisions to the Constitution, we question the advisability of the changes it called for, such as electing the prime minister by popular vote, something we believe would likely devolve into a mere popularity contest, and abolishing the House of Councillors, a goal that would be extremely difficult to achieve.


Clarify priorities

The unintelligibility of Ishin no Kai's election pledges when seen as a whole is mainly because it juxtaposes policies that need to be addressed immediately with medium- and long-term tasks. The party needs to clarify which of its plans will get the highest priority.

Nevertheless, the party is correctly pledging to support Japan's participation in talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, as this would allow the growth potential of the economies of Asia to be tapped. Along with this, it is reasonable that the party wants to reform the agricultural sector to enhance the international competitiveness of Japan's farm produce.

The party's platform, for instance, rightly points out the need to limit the number of beneficiaries of the income guarantee system for individual farmers, which was created by the DPJ administration, so that it supports only full-time farm households. We also agree with its call to carry out a drastic review of the nation's agricultural cooperatives.

On diplomatic and security policy, the party has incorporated into its platform the goal of freeing the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense.

Enabling our country to exercise this right would help deepen the alliance with the United States, the core of Japan's foreign policy.

We strongly hope Ishin no Kai will do its best to help realize this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 30, 2012)
(2012年11月30日01時28分  読売新聞)

| | コメント (0)

« 2012年11月 | トップページ | 2013年1月 »