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2013年1月31日 (木)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:怒りの対象は他にいる? /東京

January 20, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Could the target of sibling anger be elsewhere?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:怒りの対象は他にいる? /東京

During consultations in January, I often hear stories about going home for the New Year's holidays. Most of them are negative stories about clashes and hurt feelings among family.

In particular, stories about clashing with siblings stand out. Having become adults and made their own families, there is a newfound inequality among them. Complaints arise over how much they are helping around the house, or treating other family members. At the end, they add, "You know, he/she has been like that since they were a kid."

Psychologist Carl Jung gave these fights and jealousies among siblings a name, a "Cain Complex," after the Old Testament's Cain, who killed his brother Abel for being shown more favor by God.

Interestingly, though it was God who showed different levels of favor, Cain's disdain was for his brother.
Perhaps it is the same for regular sibling rivalries. Though they don't really hate each other, they feel that their parents love the other more. Or, they may feel like Heaven itself is on their siblings' side, with them always getting the luck in life. Though they should ask their parents, or Heaven, "Why? I'm working hard, so wouldn't it be OK for me to get some attention," they don't. Instead they turn feelings of hatred and resentment toward their siblings who are having all the fun.
一般のきょうだいもそうかもしれない。もともとはきらいではないのに、親が自分よりもきょうだいのほうを愛しているように感じる。あるいは、天までもきょうだいに味方して、向こうばかりがラッキーに生きている気がする。本来なら親や天に「どうして? 私だって一生懸命なのだから、こっちを向いてくれてもいいじゃない」と抗議すべきなのに、そうしない。そして、良い思いをひとりじめしているように見えるきょうだいに、恨みや憎しみを向けてしまうのだ。

How about if people who are irritated with siblings took a moment to think? Is who you are angry at really your siblings? Perhaps there is someone else to whom you want to say, "Look at me more. Be kinder to me."

In my consultation room, there was a woman who was always badmouthing her younger brother. Once, over a lengthy talk, she realized that the source of her jealousy was feelings that her brother was loved more by his spouse than she was by hers. She later told me her feelings of frustration disappeared when she resolved to try to better understand her husband.
This New Year's period, if you felt negative emotions toward a sibling, why not consider that they may have been trying to say to you, "You know, isn't there someone else to whom you want to say something?"

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年01月15日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:新しいプライド /東京

January 27, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: A new source of pride
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:新しいプライド /東京

I recently read a popular book about the janitors of a certain company on bullet trains. It describes their work as they perfectly prepare the train's interior during what might be a seven-minute stop. What is impressive is not only the janitors' work, but also how the staff line up before and after their work to bow, and how they stop to help passengers in need.

With their undying smiles and even the middle- to senior-aged employees wearing hats with accessories like seasonal flowers, they look fashionable and seem to be enjoying their jobs. People who see them even once are impressed and surprised. I, too, had long wondered, "Why can these people work with such energy?"

After reading the book, I now understand the secret somewhat. The managers respect the workers' opinions, and put their suggestions into practice. But more than anything, those in charge gather good things about the employees into a newsletter called the "Angel Report." Over 70 percent of the company's employees can be complimented in the newsletter.

The book introduces some personal stories from this Angel Report. One woman who began working after passing 60 years of age liked the job but was somewhat embarrassed to be a janitor. However, after being thanked by a passenger she helped and hearing comments from her sister-in-law about how impressive the bullet train cleaners were, she says she started to feel she had gained "a new sense of pride" from the job.

I think "a new sense of pride" is a nice phrase. It is something you cannot get from money, status, or compliments in society. It is gotten from those around us noticing our efforts, or thinking ourselves that what we are doing is fun and worthwhile. It lets us feel confidence in ourselves.
Even not being employed by such a company, I think that we can get this "new pride" ourselves. It's OK if we mess up or lose heart. We can go on, for ourselves and those around us.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年01月22日 地方版

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 30
EDITORIAL: Japan, China both stand to gain in tackling air pollution

Dense, toxic smog often blankets wide areas of Beijing and other Chinese cities. Air pollution in China is a serious problem.

It is also as much Japan's problem as China's as airborne pollution reaches Japan. There is another aspect to the issue. Some 140,000 Japanese now live in China, the result of close economic ties between the two countries. Their health is also at risk.

The Chinese government must act quickly. If Japan offers to help with its superior environmental technology, both countries will benefit.

While bilateral relations are still tense over the Senkaku Islands sovereignty issue, this sort of cooperation should be actively promoted. It can be a force to propel bilateral relations forward.

China has suffered some serious air pollution for quite some time.

The main problem is PM2.5, or particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. (One micrometer is one-thousandth of a millimeter.)

As the particles are minuscule, they can be inhaled deep into the respiratory organs and cause asthma, lung cancer and other diseases.

Exhaust gases from cars and factories, heating boilers and thermal power plants are the main sources of PM2.5. Air quality tends to deteriorate markedly in winter when many heating devices are used and the air becomes stagnant.

When the air quality is particularly bad, people's daily lives are affected. For instance, schools cancel outdoor activities.

Just as Japan neglected environmental protection during its pursuit of high economic growth from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, China has done the same. Many corporations are more concerned with making profits than giving consideration to the issue, and are all-too-willing to ignore environmental regulations.

However, the public's awareness of environmental issues is changing dramatically.

The Chinese government had no intention of disclosing PM2.5 levels. When the Chinese people began to show keen interest in levels disclosed independently by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the government had no choice but to release the data.

Movements against factory construction due to environmental concerns are becoming more commonplace across China.

The Chinese government now welcomes foreign investments in energy-saving and environmentally friendly ventures, having switched from its economic growth-only policy to one that focuses more on the quality of life. The Chinese Communist Party stressed "construction of eco-civilization" in its national congress held in November.

China has much to learn from Japan's experiences in fighting environmental pollution. Although the Japanese government has discontinued most of its official development assistance (ODA) programs to China, there are many things the private sector can do.

Some local governments in Japan are beginning to call for joint Japan-China ventures to expand eco-business opportunities. Though Japan needs to protect its state-of-the-art technology, ventures such as these present huge business openings to Japanese corporations. Collaboration among universities and research institutions should also prove beneficial to both countries.

The Japanese government should draw on its ODA experiences to actively support such efforts.

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13年度予算案 デフレ脱却へ問われる積極策

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 31, 2013)
Govt must impose fiscal discipline even while seeking economic growth
13年度予算案 デフレ脱却へ問われる積極策(1月30日付・読売社説)


The fiscal 2013 budget is aimed at propping up the economy with an expansionary fiscal policy. The ability of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revitalize the economy and overcome deflation--its top priority--is now being tested.

The Cabinet approved the fiscal 2013 budget Tuesday. General-account spending totals 92.6 trillion yen, marking the first decline in seven years.

Tax revenue is expected to surpass new government bond issuance for the first time in four years. Another point of the fiscal 2013 budget is that policy-related spending by ministries and agencies was limited to 70.4 trillion yen.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a press conference: "We compiled the budget with the fiscal policy framework in mind. It's a tight budget."


Tax hike depends on recovery

However, the budget is actually the largest ever if a separate reconstruction budget, which was increased significantly to 4.4 trillion yen, is included.

The Abe administration calls the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget and fiscal 2013 budget "a 15-month budget" and aims to ensure seamless fiscal stimulus.

The administration wants to achieve a clear economic recovery before making a final judgment in autumn over whether to raise the consumption tax rate in April next year. It cannot be helped that the government tries to create an environment for the consumption tax hike by compiling a blockbuster budget.

However, 46.3 percent of the fiscal 2013 budget will be financed by new government bond issuance, meaning almost a half of the nation's revenue comes from creating new debt. Outstanding long-term debts owed by the central and local governments will reach 977 trillion yen at the end of the next fiscal year. As this is double the nation's gross domestic product, Japan is a major debt-ridden nation, to a more serious degree than even Greece, which is currently in a fiscal crisis.

We must take the nation's fiscal situation seriously, as it is the worst among developed countries.

Another problem is that the government juggled many methods to make the fiscal 2013 budget smaller than the initial fiscal 2012 budget, which was compiled by the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration.

Compressing expenditures was made possible largely by scrapping a reserve fund to deal with an economic crisis, which totaled nearly 1 trillion yen, and by advancing spending by ministries and agencies into the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget.

The government projected rather larger tax revenue based on its estimate that the nation's economy will grow 2.5 percent in real terms, which is far higher than private analysts' estimates, but it is uncertain whether the nation can achieve stable growth.

The government also treated bonds to cover state contributions to basic pension benefits separately. But isn't that just a cosmetic measure to make new bond issuance appear lower?

Also, trimming expenditures is not enough. The government earmarked 5.3 trillion yen for public works projects in fiscal 2013, about 700 billion yen more than in the previous fiscal year. Aging roads and bridges need to be repaired, but the government must not increase inefficient projects in the name of "strengthening national land."


Scrutiny vital for public works

Without relying only on public works projects as a temporary shot in the arm, it is essential for the government to bolster its growth strategy in an effort to enhance corporate competitiveness and put the economy on a track for growth.

The Liberal Democratic Party-led government increased spending for land improvement projects, which had been cut by the DPJ-led government. As for income support to farming households, the government earmarked the same level of funds as in the previous fiscal year, only changing the name that the DPJ-led administration had given the system.

This is nothing but a handout policy. It is doubtful whether such a fiscal support system will lead to reinforcing the nation's agriculture in preparation for further opening of the market.

Fiscal inflexibility became more clearly evident when we looked at other items of spending.

Social security spending swells to about 29 trillion yen due to natural increase and other factors, livelihood protection benefits have been cut by a small margin. It will be necessary to further curb fiscal spending on such programs as pension payments and medical expense benefits.

In the category of national security, the budget vividly reflects the intentions of Prime Minister Abe.


Defense budget rise laudable

Defense spending has been increased for the first time in 11 years. It is laudable that the government has clarified its resolve to protect Japan's territory and waters, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

Attaching importance to the defense of the Nansei Islands, extending from Kagoshima Prefecture to Okinawa Prefecture, the government boosted budgets for strengthening patrol and reconnaissance activities and response capabilities for defense of remote islands. Budget allocations for this purpose are reasonable.


The government will formulate new National Defense Program Guidelines before the end of this year. It is vital to reform and upgrade the structure and capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces from a medium- and long-term perspective without limiting such efforts to the fiscal 2013 budget alone.

The budget related to the Japan Coast Guard has jumped for the first time in six years. The allocations for maintenance and upgrading of patrol boats and aircraft have been increased by 40 percent over fiscal 2012. Personnel will be augmented, too.

China's provocations in connection with the Senkaku Islands have been continuing. It is appropriate that the conventional "scrap-and-build" principle for JCG patrol boats has been abandoned to adopt a policy of increasing the number of such boats.

A crucial item on the policy agenda for the future will be to pave the way as early as possible for achieving fiscal reconstruction in the medium and long term. If fiscal discipline remains lax, it is feared that Japanese government bonds will lose their international credibility.

Trimming tax grants to local governments for the first time in six years for the purpose of cutting payments to local government employees, it may be said, is a step forward.

The Abe administration has inherited the DPJ-led administrations' policy target of getting the primary balance into the black in fiscal 2020. But the hurdles on the way to this goal are high.

It will be indispensable to streamline fiscal spending while trying to secure fiscal resources through tax system reforms centering on the implementation of consumption tax hikes. The government must meet the heavy challenge of achieving economic growth and fiscal discipline at the same time.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 30, 2013)
(2013年1月30日02時01分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月30日 (水)

息苦しい日本の税制を逃れてみませんか オフショア投資です






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駆け込み退職 教育現場に混乱生じぬ対応を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 30, 2013)
Don't let teachers' early retirements affect classrooms
駆け込み退職 教育現場に混乱生じぬ対応を(1月29日付・読売社説)

An increasing number of local public school teachers have been leaving their jobs ahead of their mandatory retirement day on March 31. The reason for these abrupt resignations is clear: The enforcement of prefectural ordinances that cut the retirement allowances of local government employees is fast approaching.

Students and parents alike will be perplexed if students lose their homeroom teachers just before the end of the school year. We urge local governments to take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of confusion in classrooms, such as securing replacements for departing teachers through temporary employment contracts.

The aim of the ordinances is to reduce the gap in retirement allowances between local government officials and private sector workers. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which has begun reducing national servants' retirement pay to match levels seen in private companies, has asked prefectural governments to cut their employees' retirement allowances.

According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, about 170 teachers and other school officials are believed to have already quit their jobs, or given notice of their intent to do so soon, owing to the retirement allowance cut in four prefectures including Tokushima and Saitama. The workers include homeroom teachers and vice principals.


1.5 million yen allowance cut

In Saitama Prefecture, for instance, an ordinance mandating cuts to the retirement allowance of prefectural government employees by about 1.5 million yen on average will be enforced beginning Feb. 1. If employees subject to mandatory retirement quit at the end of January, their salaries for two months will be forfeited, yet they will be eligible to receive about 700,000 yen more than if they had worked through until the end of the academic year.

Many police officers also have been dashing for the retirement door ahead of schedule. About 230 police officers have shown their willingness to quit before March 31 in Aichi and Hyogo prefectures. We are concerned that this early mass exodus could affect the ability of the police to maintain public order.

Many private companies ask their employees to retire on the day they reach the mandatory retirement age, or at the end of the month in which that day falls.

By contrast, because the mandatory retirement date for public workers is set at the end of the fiscal year, employees can continue working even after their birthdays, and receive salaries for the extended period. This is because government offices execute their personnel budget on a fiscal-year basis. On this matter, we can generally conclude that public officials are better off than workers at private companies.


Local govts also at fault

The decisions of workers who chose early retirement apparently stem from certain economic obligations, such as the repayment of housing loans. However, teachers and police officers are engaged in crucial public service. Some people have understandably criticized them as being "irresponsible" for abruptly leaving their jobs.

However, we believe prefectural governments also should share the blame for their misplaced optimism. They failed to predict and prepare for the mass early retirements and only began taking countermeasures after the problem surfaced. We believe a system that results in economic disadvantage for officials who see through their responsibilities to the very end is intrinsically flawed from the outset.

In fact, the Tokyo metropolitan government enacted its ordinance to cut retirement allowances Jan. 1, but a stampede of early retirees did not occur because it has a rule that officials cannot receive the full reduced retirement allowances unless they work until the end of the fiscal year.

Local governments have no option but to trim personnel expenses in the face of severe fiscal realities. However, only about one-third of 47 prefectural governments have revised their ordinances to cut retirement allowances.

If local governments are found to be delaying their retirement allowance cut due to concerns about the reactions of teachers unions and other organizations, they will not escape the charge of irresponsibility.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 29, 2013)
(2013年1月29日01時27分  読売新聞)

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所信表明演説 危機突破へ成長戦略を語れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 30, 2013)
Abe must formulate strategy to boost nation's growth
所信表明演説 危機突破へ成長戦略を語れ(1月29日付・読売社説)

Strong determination and concrete policy measures are imperative in achieving the breakthroughs needed to overcome the crises facing Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his first policy speech since regaining power at the plenary sessions of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.

Abe said the source of his determination to serve as prime minister for the second time lies in his "deep sense of patriotism." He clearly demonstrated his resolve to have his entire Cabinet make utmost efforts to address crises in four areas: the economy, reconstruction from the 2011 earthquake disaster, foreign and security issues, and education.

What he underscored as the biggest and most pressing issue was economic revitalization. A strong economy will help increase individuals' income and strengthen the foundations for social security systems. The prime minister's recognition of the importance of this issue is appropriate.

The government has issued a joint statement with the Bank of Japan that stipulates a 2 percent inflation target. A supplementary budget that includes stimulus measures worth 10 trillion yen will be submitted to the Diet shortly. We praise Abe for setting in motion two of his "three arrows" for economic revitalization--monetary easing and fiscal measures.


Handle divided Diet carefully

The remaining "arrow" is growth strategy. At the Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization, comprising the entire Cabinet, and the Industrial Competitiveness Council, in which relevant Cabinet ministers and outside experts are participating, the Abe administration must hammer out effective policy measures to stimulate private investment to increase synergistic effects with monetary and fiscal policy measures.

To overcome the nation's crises, the prime minister called on the opposition bloc to cooperate. "Let us mobilize the wisdom of the ruling and opposition parties and demonstrate Japan's strength to the greatest possible extent," Abe said in his speech. It also is essential for the administration to carefully handle the Diet, as the upper house is controlled by the opposition.

A focal point in the Diet is that the government must obtain approval for its appointment of the successor to Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa, whose term expires in April. Early passage of budgets and related bills also is of major importance.

Besides holding talks with the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest party in the upper house, the ruling parties should hold discussions with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, which share similar views on monetary and economic policy measures. We believe the Abe administration should consider the possibility of joining hands with these parties on a policy-by-policy basis.


How will PM rebuild China ties

In his speech, Abe delivered simple and easy-to-understand messages as he narrowed the points to highlight certain issues.

On the other hand, we consider unsatisfactory Abe's failure to refer to many important issues. We want him to clarify his stances on these issues through Diet debates.

They include the government's policy toward China, one of the nation's biggest pending issues. Abe earlier said the nation would "resolutely protect" the Senkaku Islands. But we wonder how Japan-China relations will be rebuilt.

Abe also did not touch on energy policy. We think he should have provided a full explanation on the necessity of reactivating idled nuclear reactors so that public anxiety over electricity shortages will not hinder economic revitalization.

He clearly stated in his speech that Japan would play a leading role in economic and security issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

Therefore, he should have Japan enter negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework so the nation will be able to take full advantage of growth in other parts of Asia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 29, 2013)
(2013年1月29日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月29日 (火)

新しいかたちの自己主張型意見交換広場 まずは無料登録


Which now ! は 3 つの軸で意見(オピニオン)をシェアできるソーシャルオピニオンサービスなのです。


ツイッターやフェイスブックもよいですが、それよりも、お手軽さと言う点で上なのがWhich now !サイトです。この原稿を書き上げたら、すぐに、私も無料登録いたします。

あなたも、私と一緒にWhich now ! サイトに参加してみませんか。

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いまどきのナースコールとは 最新情報です





老人ホームに必要なナースコール だって、これでバッチリです。

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難病対策 患者を支える体制が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 29, 2013)
Patients with rare diseases need more support
難病対策 患者を支える体制が必要だ(1月28日付・読売社説)

It is important to craft a system to support people battling intractable diseases.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's Health Science Council has compiled a set of proposals concerning a medical treatment system for intractable diseases and measures to support patients suffering from such illnesses. The ministry aims to establish a law to get these proposals up and running.

Intractable diseases are conditions for which treatments have not yet been established due to the low number of cases and because their cause is unknown. They can impair a patient's daily life for years. There are said to be 5,000 to 7,000 intractable diseases.

Patients are eligible to receive subsidized medical care for 56 such diseases whose diagnosis criteria are well-defined and whose treatment is very expensive, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson's disease.


Subsidies due for review

The main pillar of the proposals is to review the medical expenses subsidies and increase the number of diseases covered by them to about 300.

The proposals take into account the fact that many patients with intractable diseases--aside from the 56 covered by subsidies--have to pay heavy medical expenses.

We think it is reasonable to eliminate unfairness in public support between patients eligible for subsidies and those who are not.

The proposals also call for severely ill patients, whose medical expenses are currently covered entirely by public funds, to bear some of the cost, depending on their income. Lying behind this move is the fact that the number of patients eligible for public support has increased, pushing the state's fiscal burden above 120 billion yen a year.

While coming up with fresh ideas for securing the necessary funds is vital, it will be inevitable to lower the subsidies so more patients can receive support.

The proposals also call for university hospitals and other medical facilities with specialists in diverse fields to be designated as key hospitals for treating patients with intractable diseases. This is because such patients often require the help of several clinical departments, such as the neurology and cardiovascular departments.


Boost research

The important thing is to build a system that enables patients with intractable diseases to have their cases accurately diagnosed by specialists. It is crucial that specialists be properly placed at these key hospitals.

As only a few patients have intractable diseases, the number of specialists with ample experience in treating them is limited.

Many of these patients have had to visit various medical institutions over many years before having their condition diagnosed correctly by specialists.

It might be a good idea to create a database on medical institutions equipped with such specialists that patients can check on the Internet.

If the first medical practitioner to treat a patient with an intractable disease is not an expert on the condition, he or she is required to properly introduce the patient to a specialist. For this, regular doctors will need to deepen their knowledge and understanding of intractable diseases.

The proposals also call for boosting research on intractable diseases. They urge more research on gene analysis to clarify how diseases spread and work, and new treatments utilizing regenerative medicine technology.

We hope the public and private sectors both make efforts to trace the causes of diseases and develop new medicines--two steps eagerly awaited by many patients.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2013)
(2013年1月28日01時07分  読売新聞)

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オバマ氏2期目 米国再生へ真価が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 29, 2013)
Can U.S. achieve revival during Obama's 2nd term?
オバマ氏2期目 米国再生へ真価が問われる(1月28日付・読売社説)

The coming four years will be a crucial test of Barack Obama's ability to revive the United States.

After his reelection, Obama has launched his second term as U.S. president.

In a speech marking the inauguration of his second term, Obama touted his first-term achievements, saying: "A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun."

U.S. troops in Afghanistan will complete their combat mission shortly and pull out at the end of next year. Stock prices that nosedived after the "Lehman shock" have been rising sharply, exceeding precrisis levels. And the U.S. energy boom is surging due to the so-called shale gas revolution.

Obama probably takes pride in his achievement of overcoming negative legacies of the previous Bush administration.

However, a bumpy road lies ahead before the United States can attain a full-scale revival.


Fiscal mess must be fixed

The top-priority challenge will be fiscal reconstruction.

Fiscal deficits topped 1 trillion dollars (about 90 trillion yen) for four consecutive years, and government debts ballooned to exceed 16 trillion dollars.

The United States has so far avoided the double threats of falling off the fiscal cliff: mandatory spending cuts and the expiration of large-scale tax breaks. A government default will likely be avoided for about three months by raising the ceiling on the issuance of U.S. Treasury bills, which limits federal borrowing.

However, implementation of drastic fiscal reconstruction measures are being put on the back burner.

Obama must display strong leadership in passing necessary bills through Congress.

Partisan confrontation has been intensifying rather than subsiding under a divided Congress in which the House of Representatives is controlled by the opposition Republican Party and the Senate by the Democratic Party. Obama will face a tough job in dealing with Republican representatives on key bills.

To help overcome the challenge, Obama is replacing key Cabinet members--including secretaries of Treasury, state and defense--and has nominated seasoned politicians with broad influence in Congress to fill the posts.


A host of challenges

Obama faces a host of difficult policy challenges at home. Among them are legislation for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting rampage that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school students, and reform of the immigration system to give the children of illegal immigrants conditional citizenship.

On diplomatic and security fronts, Obama will have to cope with the ongoing nuclear development programs of North Korea and Iran. Washington's active engagement will be indispensable to promote the deadlocked Middle East peace process and deal with the turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement.

Above all, the Obama administration's strategy of focusing on Asia is being put to the test.

How will the White House develop a relationship with the Chinese administration led by Xi Jinping while curbing the moves of China, which has been expanding its military and economic power? It will be essential for the United States to buttress relations with Japan and other allies to build a free, open and peaceful Asia-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the United States next month and hold a summit meeting with Obama. We hope the two leaders will discuss how to reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance from a strategic viewpoint focusing on China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2013)
(2013年1月28日01時07分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月28日 (月)

高校野球監督 元プロの「恩返し」に期待する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 28, 2013)
Having ex-pro players as managers should help high school teams
高校野球監督 元プロの「恩返し」に期待する(1月27日付・読売社説)

Moves are afoot to significantly ease the requirements for retired pro baseball players to become managers of high school baseball teams.

We hope increased interactions between instructors of professional and amateur baseball will help develop the baseball world as a whole.

Retired pro baseball players will qualify to become student instructors if they undergo a training program that will be newly created. This is the main thrust of an agreement reached at a meeting on Jan. 17 of the Japan Student Baseball Association, which presides over affairs relating to high school and university baseball, and pro baseball representatives. The new system could even be introduced before the end of the year.

An increasing number of university teams have been hiring former pro players as managers under special rules. By contrast, only a handful of high school teams are managed by former professionals. This is because baseball is an extracurricular activity widely regarded as a "part of education," so high school managers have been required to have at least two years experience as a full-time teacher.


Long years of separation

However, many high schoolers understandably wish to learn high-level skills from a pro. Many people involved in pro baseball also want to show their gratitude for what they learned while playing the game during their high school days.

We welcome that the Japan High School Baseball Federation, which is affiliated with the JSBA, has changed course this time to the pro baseball view of seeking expanded interactions with high school baseball.

The accord will also go a long way to opening up a new career path for players that ended their pro days without striking it big, as they will have a chance to become a high school team manager.

Japan's pro and amateur baseball worlds were severed for decades.

The Japan Student Baseball Charter created in 1946 banned student teams from playing and training with professionals. The ban was reportedly aimed mainly at preventing the commercialization of student baseball.

Their icy ties began to thaw about a decade ago, through such events as symposiums hosted by pro players for high school team members.

In 2010, the Japan Student Baseball Charter was extensively revised, and the ban on interactions between pros and amateurs was lifted in principle. The agreement on allowing retired pro players to become high school baseball managers has ushered pro-amateur ties into a new era.


All coaches will benefit

In the planned training program, former pro players will learn about the history of the ruptured pro-amateur ties and the process through which these relations were mended. The training is vital so both sides will not slide back to the unfortunate situation of the past. It should also include fruitful lectures on such matters as the need to run baseball clubs soundly from an educational point of view and steps to ensure player safety.

High school baseball currently has some excellent managers. We hope their competition with managers from the pro arena will improve the level of coaching as a whole.

In a related move, Eijiro Ai, a former pitcher for the Yakult Swallows and the Lotte Marines who managed the baseball team of Kawagoe-Higashi High School in Saitama Prefecture after he retired, has been named head coach of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for this season. Many observers will be watching closely to see to what extent Ai can transfer the skills he honed while in charge of a high school team to a professional league.

Increased personnel interactions between amateur and pro baseball will undoubtedly strengthen the sense of unity of baseball circles.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2013)
(2013年1月27日01時34分  読売新聞)

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巨額貿易赤字 輸出力の強化と原発再稼動を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 28, 2013)
Restart nuclear power plants, boost exports to recoup trading ground
巨額貿易赤字 輸出力の強化と原発再稼動を(1月27日付・読売社説)

The foundation of Japan as a trading country is eroding. Both government and private sectors must work together to recoup lost ground.

The 2012 trading balance--exports minus imports--ran up a record deficit of 6.9 trillion yen, far exceeding 2.6 trillion yen in 1980 that immediately followed the second oil crisis.

Last year's trade deficit is 2.7 times more than the 2011 figure, the first trade deficit in 31 years, which was attributable to the negative effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This is a very serious situation.

The trade deficit was caused by a decline in exports due to the European financial crisis and deceleration of the Chinese economy, combined with a sharp increase in imports.

After the disaster occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the operations of nuclear reactors were suspended around the country. Since then, only two have been reactivated.

As an alternative electricity source, power companies have been operating thermal power stations at full blast. Consequently, imports of liquefied natural gas, the fuel needed for these power stations, have increased abnormally to a massive 6 trillion yen a year.

Meanwhile, Japan's current account balance, which includes dividends and interest from overseas investment, remains in surplus. However, there are concerns that this balance will eventually fall into the red if the trade deficit continues.


Hollowing out of industry

To rebuild its status as a trading nation, Japan first has to strengthen the competitiveness of its manufacturing industry to increase exports.

Japanese electrical appliance manufacturers have fallen behind their South Korean rivals in the markets of flat-screen televisions, mobile phones and others. Japan also has a 3 trillion yen a year excess in imports for medicine and medical equipment, markets that are growing quickly.

Japanese manufacturers must develop attractive products of high value and find ways to capitalize on growing markets in the emerging economies of Asia and other regions.

Behind the huge trade deficit is the rapid hollowing-out of the domestic manufacturing industry, as Japanese firms are moving their production overseas to avoid the high costs of operating in this country.

The government should help Japanese companies by such means as lowering corporate tax and giving tax credits for investment so they will be able to take full advantage of manufacturing in Japan. The Industrial Competitiveness Council created recently by the government should devise measures to promote "made-in-Japan" products.


Make decision on TPP

The government also should not wait any longer to decide on participating in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact to help Japanese firms compete better in overseas markets.

What would be most important to reduce imports would be to reactivate idle nuclear reactors quickly after their safety has been confirmed. The longer Japan depends on thermal power generation, LNG imports will continue to increase and the nation's wealth will flow to countries rich in natural resources.

The rising cost of LNG also will eventually result in an increase in electricity charges.

The excessively strong yen has been corrected and the weaker yen is becoming the norm on foreign exchange markets. This helps exporters, but excessive depreciation of the yen will further increase the prices of imports of LNG and other foreign products. Close attention should be paid to this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2013)
(2013年1月27日01時34分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月27日 (日)

習・山口会談 首脳対話に必要な中国の自制

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 27, 2013)
China's restraint a prerequisite for bilateral summit
習・山口会談 首脳対話に必要な中国の自制(1月26日付・読売社説)

To create an environment to resume the stalled Japan-China summit talks, both countries need to make diplomatic efforts.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party's ruling coalition partner, visited China to hold talks with Communist Party of China leader Xi Jinping on Friday. This was Xi's first meeting with a senior Japanese politician since he assumed the top post of his party last autumn.

Yamaguchi handed Xi a personal letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During the meeting, the Komeito leader said, "To break the deadlock, dialogue between politicians is essential."

Xi said he would seriously consider holding high-level talks, as such efforts are important to mend the strained bilateral ties. He also mentioned the need to develop an environment conducive to future bilateral summit talks.

China apparently seeks compromise from Japan over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, but that is unacceptable. We rather call on China for restraint.

Since Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands in September, the intrusion of Chinese government ships into Japanese territorial waters has become commonplace, and there have also been reports of China's intrusion into Japanese airspace.

Beijing first should refrain from taking provocative action to prevent an unexpected contingency and improve the bilateral relationship.


Komeito's role as a bridge

Komeito played a key role through diplomatic efforts by its lawmakers when the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. It is understandable that the party again seeks to act as a bridge between the two governments amid friction.

The Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory. Thus, a territorial dispute does not exist over the islands. It is vital to stick to this stance taken by the Japanese government, but Yamaguchi's remarks caused concern.

Before his visit to China, Yamaguchi referred to the possibility of putting the sovereignty issue on hold, telling a Hong Kong TV broadcaster, "It's one sensible option to leave it to future wisdom."

He also proposed that both Japan and China restrain from flying Self-Defense Force jets or military planes over the islands.

Yamaguchi did not make such remarks at his meeting with Xi, but the comments should not be overlooked. For many years, China called for the two countries to set aside the issue. But Beijing established a maritime territory law in 1992 that stipulates the islands are part of China's territory and has since tried to force a change in the situation concerning the islands.

We consider it reasonable that Abe expressed his displeasure with Yamaguchi's statements, saying, "We'll decide whether SDF planes enter [the airspace over the islands]."


Remember national interests

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama plans to visit China soon. When he was in office, Murayama made a statement in which he expressed "deep remorse" to China for Japan's wartime occupation and other actions. Beijing appears to draw pro-China comments from Murayama.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who visited China earlier this month, called the Senkakus "disputed" islands. Because he conceded there is a territorial row between the two countries, Chinese major media reported it widely. We wonder if he is not aware he is being used by China.

Remarks that disregard national interests do the nation no good, only causing enormous harm to it.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 26, 2013)
(2013年1月26日01時36分  読売新聞)

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途上国リスク 日本企業が抱える課題は重い

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 27, 2013)
Hostage crisis shows challenges facing Japanese firms abroad
途上国リスク 日本企業が抱える課題は重い(1月26日付・読売社説)

The taking of hostages by Islamist militants at a natural gas plant in Algeria has forced Japanese companies operating abroad to review their security management systems.

They have to strike a difficult balance between developing business opportunities abroad and preparing countermeasures against terrorism and other risks.

In the recent crisis, 10 employees of major plant construction company JGC Corp. and companies related to it were killed. On Friday, the bodies of nine of them returned to Japan on a Japanese government plane, along with seven survivors.

JGC has developed natural resources in Algeria since the 1960s. It does business not only in Africa but also in many countries in the Middle East, Asia and other regions.

JGC is a pioneering Japanese corporation in doing business abroad. Over 70 percent of its sales are earned in other countries. We have to take very seriously the fact that even JGC, with its thorough knowledge of operating in developing countries, could fall victim to terrorism.


Risks in developing countries

"[The hostage-taking incident] shows the challenge of doing business and securing safety simultaneously," said JGC President Koichi Kawana at a press conference. His words reflect a common challenge for other Japanese firms operating abroad.

About 15 Japanese companies have offices in Algeria. In other African countries that are also rich in natural resources and expected to grow economically, Japanese firms compete with each other in the trade, construction, automobile and many other industries.

According to a survey by the Japan External Trade Organization, 70 percent of Japanese firms operating in Africa said the continent will become increasingly important. But 90 percent said Africa had problems regarding political and social stability, which undermines security. The figures show the dilemma such firms face.

After the latest incident, Japanese firms operating abroad have taken defensive measures such as prohibiting employees from traveling to countries where security concerns are high and enhancing the security of their offices and plants. We think those are appropriate actions.


Coordinate with governments

However, there is a limit to the defensive measures a private company can afford to take. We expect companies to reexamine their security measures by strengthening their coordination with the Japanese government and the governments of the other countries where they operate.

Meanwhile, the government plans to review its own response to the incident while organizing a panel of experts to study ways to protect Japanese nationals abroad. It is important to discuss the risks in developing countries from a broader perspective.

We would like to suggest that both ruling and opposition parties begin talks as soon as possible on establishing a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council to enhance the government's ability to systematically gather and analyze intelligence on terrorism.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner New Komeito plan to discuss revision of the Self-Defense Forces Law. Though it is already possible under the current law to transport Japanese nationals on SDF ships and planes, the parties are considering revising the law so that the SDF can also rescue and transport Japanese people on land in other countries.

However, the advance agreement of the countries concerned will be necessary for the SDF to carry out such missions. The missions will also require a relaxation of the rules on the use of weapons, which is narrowly restricted to immediate self-defense at present. It will also be necessary to specially train Ground Self-Defense Force members in how to protect people in their care.

The ruling parties should have serious and responsible discussions of these issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 26, 2013)
(2013年1月26日01時36分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月26日 (土)

e-sarn top ten Jan2013 test format

e-sarn top ten Jan2013 test format

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教育再生会議 実効性伴う踏み込んだ提言を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 26, 2013)
Abe's new panel must propose effective education measures
教育再生会議 実効性伴う踏み込んだ提言を(1月25日付・読売社説)

The headquarters for the revitalization of education, which is to set the direction of education policy for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been officially launched.

We hope the new panel will come up with effective prescriptions to address mounting problems, such as incidents of serious bullying and physical punishments, at the nation's places of education.

At the headquarters' first meeting Thursday, Abe said the revitalization of education is an important issue on a par with the revitalization of the economy. Abe said the panel's goals would be to guarantee students chances to acquire world-class academic ability and respect for social norms.

The panel, directly under the prime minister, consists of 15 experts including prefectural governors, corporate executives and scholars.

We hope the panel will discuss various problems in education, free from the traditional administrative framework of educational practices, and recommend drastic and effective proposals.


Improvement over old panel

The Education Rebuilding Council, which was created in 2006 under the first Abe administration, produced some achievements such as moving away from "pressure-free education," but its proposals tried to please everyone and quite a few of them could not be realized.

How its role differed from that of the Central Council of Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, was unclear. This is a point to keep in mind.

An improvement this time is that the Central Council of Education will be in charge of designing concrete systems to revitalize education based on the headquarters' discussions. We give high marks on this point.

At the headquarters, members will have intensive discussions on specific themes and will compile proposals as appropriate. The initial points of discussion will be antibullying measures and a review of the board of education system.

The Abe administration reportedly plans to incorporate the results of discussions at the headquarters in a bill for a basic law on measures to prevent bullying, which it aims to pass in the upcoming ordinary Diet session.

To prevent bullying, in addition to appropriate instruction by teachers, proper home discipline and improved counseling services offered by local governments are indispensable. We would like the panel to enlist society as a whole to tackle the problem.

Problematic responses to issues such as suicides suspected to have been caused by bullying have drawn attention to the closed nature of boards of education across the country and have revealed that many of them are responsible authorities in name only.


Review board of education system

It cannot be denied that the system of education boards, which are politically independent from heads of local governments, has obscured where the responsibility for education administration resides. In the physical punishment case at Osaka's municipal Sakuranomiya High School, Mayor Toru Hashimoto and the municipal board of education have clashed over responses to the problem.

It is necessary to thoroughly discuss what the ideal relationship between heads of local governments and boards of education should be.

A mid- and long-term issue to be deliberated after this summer's House of Councillors election is a review of the current system in which primary school is six years long, middle and high school are three years each, and university is four. The Liberal Democratic Party picked this as one of its pledges in the latest House of Representatives election.

More and more academic institutions are now practicing integrated education under which curriculums flow seamlessly from primary to middle school or from middle to high school. The appropriateness of the current academic system, divided into four separate levels of school, has been the subject of much discussion for years.

We believe the time has come to think about a more flexible education system that improves the academic ability of children.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 25, 2013)
(2013年1月25日01時20分  読売新聞)

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税制改正大綱 難題先送りでは責任果たせぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 26, 2013)
Postponing tax question will not lead to solution
税制改正大綱 難題先送りでは責任果たせぬ(1月25日付・読売社説)

A stopgap approach to resolving a challenge can never lead to reinvigoration of the national economy. Drastic revision of the tax system is urgently needed now.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito have decided on an outline of the ruling bloc's tax system revisions for fiscal 2013.

With the consumption tax rate scheduled to be raised to 8 percent from April 2014, the posture of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration has drawn much attention.

Regarding the wisdom of applying a reduced rate to such goods as foodstuffs, the two parties have agreed to strive to introduce a lower tax rate when the consumption tax is raised from 8 percent to 10 percent in October 2015.

The LDP and Komeito seem to have postponed the introduction of a low tax rate on daily necessities mainly because they took into account objections from small and midsize businesses and others that their business operations would be complicated by the introduction of a reduced tax rate.

To secure public understanding about the consumption tax increase, however, it is definitely desirable to implement a lower rate system when the rate is raised to 8 percent. We believe the decision to put off its introduction is problematic.


Reduced rate must be 5%

The LDP and Komeito have agreed to have the specific rate of reduction, and the range of lower-rate goods, discussed by a panel of experts and to reach a conclusion toward the end of the year when deciding on tax system revisions for fiscal 2014.

Discussions on the issue must be launched promptly to ensure that lower rate arrangements are implemented when the tax is raised to 10 percent.

When the low tax rate system is introduced, the rate should be set at 5 percent on not only foodstuffs but also newspapers and magazines, which are public goods that serve as pillars of democracy.

Discussions on the motor vehicle acquisition tax and weight tax were difficult to the last, and the question of how to deal with these taxes was narrowly settled as a result of concessions by various sides.

Under the LDP-Komeito accord, the motor vehicle acquisition tax will be reduced when the consumption tax is raised to 8 percent and abolished when the rate is increased to 10 percent. As for the weight tax, the current tax breaks on eco-friendly vehicles will become permanent, with a view to using the motor vehicle-related tax revenue for improving and maintaining roads.

The planned abolition of the motor vehicle acquisition tax will reduce local governments' tax revenues by about 200 billion yen a year.

The tax system revision outline stipulates that abolition of the acquisition tax will "not adversely affect the finances of local governments." There have been no prospects, however, of how to secure revenue sources to make up for the lost income.


Simplify motor vehicle taxes

The automobile industry has called for abolition of both the motor vehicle acquisition tax and weight tax. It argues that they will cause a slump in motor vehicle sales if they remain in place after the consumption tax goes up. But local governments, concerned about loss of revenue, have opposed the abolition of the two taxes.

Apparently taking this summer's House of Councillors election into account, the LDP-Komeito agreement is an equivocal one intended to show deference to both the automobile industry and local governments.

The purposes for which the automobile weight tax is to be used are also problematic.

The two parties' agreement on the matter could eventually lead to a revival of the tax revenues set aside for road construction that the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan did away with in 2009 in the name of reducing fiscal waste.

It is important to thoroughly review and simplify the highly complicated tax structure on motor vehicles, including the gasoline tax.

Also envisioned in connection with tax system revisions for next fiscal year are increases in income and inheritance taxes on the wealthy. The effect of the tax hikes in securing fiscal resources for the government, however, is certain to be limited, and they may discourage people in high income brackets from working, lessening the nation's economic vitality.

Expansion of the tax breaks on housing loans and on some items of business activity has also been incorporated into the tax system revision outline, but it is unclear how effectively these steps will bolster the economy.

Such measures as a full-fledged cut in corporate income tax, coupled with a solid growth strategy, must be realized.

The government should explore ways to balance the tax burdens in each category of income level, assets and consumption.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 25, 2013)
(2013年1月25日01時20分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月25日 (金)

原発住民投票案 新潟県議会の否決は当然だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 25, 2013)
Niigata made right decision in rejecting nuclear referendum
原発住民投票案 新潟県議会の否決は当然だ(1月24日付・読売社説)

It is the government's responsibility to decide whether to restart reactors at nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed. It is unreasonable to leave such a decision up to referendums.

The Niigata Prefectural Assembly rejected Wednesday a draft ordinance on holding a referendum to ask residents whether they would support the restart of reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

Assembly members from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan--which hold a majority in the assembly--opposed the draft, saying whether to support resuming the operations of nuclear reactors is not an appropriate topic for a referendum.

We think the assembly made a proper judgment.

The draft ordinance was requested last month of Gov. Hirohiko Izumida by a citizens organization that collected signatures from about 68,000 residents in the prefecture.

What is hard to understand, however, is Izumida's reaction to the draft.

The governor released a written statement on Jan. 16, in which he expressed some concerns about the draft.
"A referendum cannot reflect appropriately the will of residents as it asks them to simply vote yes or no," the statement said. "Holding a referendum would mean that residents living in an area hosting a nuclear plant are asked to make a decision about an issue the central government should deal with."


Governor's response confusing

We think Izumida made reasonable points.

At the same time, however, the statement said the assembly should amend the draft ordinance by the citizens organization and pass the amended ordinance. The governor also remarked that a referendum should be held.

Izumida appeared to be simultaneously stepping on the gas and the brake regarding the draft ordinance, so it is only natural that some members of the assembly criticized his attitude as difficult to understand.

The assembly also rejected another draft ordinance that reflected Izumida's statement.

Regarding the assembly's reaction, the governor said: "I understand that [the draft ordinances] were rejected because the assembly believes that [the reactivation of nuclear reactors] is not an appropriate topic for a referendum because the issue involves national policy. It's very disappointing."

We wonder if Izumida made such a comment out of consideration for the residents who requested a referendum as opponents of nuclear power generation.

Referendums should deal with issues that only concern residents within a certain area, such as mergers of municipalities. They should not address energy issues and those related to U.S. military bases, which are closely related to the nation's security.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, the Osaka Municipal Assembly and the Shizuoka Prefectural Assembly have also rejected similar draft ordinances on holding referendums to decide whether to give the go-ahead to restarting nuclear reactors. These developments suggest that the idea that a nuclear issue is not an appropriate topic for a referendum has been taking root.


Stable energy supply threatened

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a policy of resuming operations of nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world's largest facilities of its kind, accounts for more than 10 percent of TEPCO's generation capacity. The plant has relatively new equipment as its first reactor started operating in 1985.

If the plant's seven reactors are not restarted, the electricity supply for the Tokyo metropolitan area could become unstable. TEPCO might raise its electricity charges again because of a further increase in fuel costs for thermal power generation.

This situation would negatively affect Niigata Prefecture--for example, in terms of employment--even though it is not part of TEPCO's service areas.

When the safety of the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is confirmed, Izumida should work with the government to achieve their smooth reactivation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2013)
(2013年1月24日01時07分  読売新聞)

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対「北」制裁強化 安保理決議の実効性を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 25, 2013)
Sanctions on North Korea meaningless if not effective
対「北」制裁強化 安保理決議の実効性を高めよ(1月24日付・読売社説)

It is crucial for the international community to make continuous efforts to pressure North Korea and improve the effectiveness of sanctions against the country.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2087, which boosts sanctions against North Korea.

The resolution condemned Pyongyang's December launch of a long-range ballistic missile, which North Korea claimed sent a satellite into orbit. The Security Council also expressed its "determination to take significant action" if the country launches another missile or conducts a new nuclear test.

It took time for the Security Council to arrange the details of the sanctions. However, the new resolution means that members of the international community have joined hands to make a tough response to North Korea's provocative actions. This deserves praise.

The latest resolution was a product of compromise between the United States and China, both of whom are permanent members of the Security Council.


Resolution not best, but better

The United States tried to heighten punitive actions against North Korea by adding new sanctions with the help of Japan and South Korea. However, China reportedly opposed this idea and insisted the Security Council should issue a presidential statement--which is not legally binding--instead of a resolution.

In the end, the Security Council decided to adopt a resolution but refrained from imposing new sanctions on North Korea. Instead, the Security Council has beefed up existing sanctions stipulated in previous resolutions, such as adding new entities to its travel ban and freeze on assets.

The resolution could have been better if it imposed new sanctions, such as obligating member countries to inspect North Korean cargos. However, this is clear progress compared to the Security's Council's response to North Korea's previous missile launch in April.

At that time the Security Council only managed to issue a presidential statement condemning North Korea, due to protests from China. It is clear that the Security Council's lukewarm response has inflated Pyongyang's ego, and is one reason the nation decided to launch another missile in December.

The Security Council's new resolution has drawn an angry response from North Korea. The nation said it will take countermeasures against the resolution and "bolster its military capabilities for self-defense, including nuclear deterrence." This could be interpreted as expressing Pyongyang's intention to conduct a fresh nuclear test.

North Korea has twice conducted nuclear tests, both of which took place in response to the Security Council's condemnation of Pyongyang's missile launches. If the international community fails to prevent Pyongyang from conducting a third test, the horror of a nuclear-armed North Korea will become more imminent, further exacerbating regional tensions.


China must act

As a permanent member of the Security Council and a regional neighbor, China should strongly urge North Korea to stop threatening the international community.

The underlying reason why China agreed to adopting a U.N. resolution is its strained relationship with the United States over Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and to the Senkaku Islands. We believe China judged it would be an additional burden on the country if it also clashed with the United States over North Korea.

Efforts to boost sanctions against North Korea will be meaningless if they fail to produce tangible results. China, which accounts for about 70 percent of North Korea's trade, has a heavy responsibility to strictly comply with and strengthen the sanctions, such as an embargo on commodities related to weapons of mass destruction and luxury goods.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the government plans to take independent action against North Korea, such as beefing up Japan's sanctions against the country. We urge the government to come up with ideas that will effectively discourage North Korea's provocations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2013)
(2013年1月24日01時07分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月24日 (木)

物価目標2% 政府と日銀が挑む「高い壁」

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 24, 2013)
Govt, BOJ must work in unity to achieve inflation target
物価目標2% 政府と日銀が挑む「高い壁」(1月23日付・読売社説)

To lift the nation out of deflation, the government and the Bank of Japan have compiled a joint statement that incorporates a 2 percent inflation target. However, whether they can work closely together to clear the high hurdles needed to achieve the target has been called into question.

After the joint statement was approved at the central bank's Policy Board meeting Tuesday, Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, reported to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Among other things, the statement stipulates the bank will promote further monetary easing steps by setting a target of a 2 percent year-on-year rise in the consumer price index and aim to achieve that target "at the earliest possible time."

The central bank had previously said the desirable inflation rate in the mid- and long term was "1 percent for the time being." However, it accepted Abe's strong request to set the 2 percent inflation target. It was the first time the bank has set a specific inflation target--a historic turn of events.

In praising the Bank of Japan's decision, the prime minister said, "It's a bold review of monetary policy." He also expressed his resolve to accelerate the revival of the nation's economy--his administration's top priority--by using the joint statement as leverage.


Purchasing financial assets

In line with the statement, the central bank decided to take such new monetary easing measures as the purchase of a large amount of financial assets, including government bonds, from 2014 without setting a specific termination date.

For the bank, the open-ended monetary easing plan is virgin territory. The decision to take such a step will probably send a message to the market that the bank will more actively implement monetary easing measures.

In Japan, however, the increase in the consumer price index has been slightly above the zero percent level or in negative territory since the latter half of the 1990s. How this rate can be raised to 2 percent has not been worked out.

Even if prices rise as planned, there is concern people's livelihoods will be threatened if it is "bad inflation" that does not entail expanded employment or pay increases.

It was also decided Tuesday that the Bank of Japan will regularly report on the progress toward reaching the 2 percent inflation target to the government's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, which will examine the effects of the bank's monetary easing measures. The central bank needs to explain how it plans to end deflation while carefully watching for possible side effects on people's lives.


Bank's independence essential

At the same time, it is important to maintain the bank's independence. The government must refrain from excessive political intervention into the bank's methods of carrying out monetary policy.

The government, for its part, must draw on all of its policies to overcome deflation. Even if a large amount of funds is supplied through monetary easing measures, the money cannot be used effectively and consumption will not increase if demand for the funds to create new investments is insufficient.

It is reasonable that the joint statement calls on the government to carry out structural reforms such as "bold regulatory and structural reforms" and "utilization of the tax system," and "to strengthen competitiveness and growth potential." We urge the government to accelerate efforts to implement a growth strategy.

International trust in Japan will be shaken if the Bank of Japan's purchase of a large amount of government bonds is viewed as an attempt to cover a budget deficit. As the statement pointed out, the government also should strengthen measures to restore fiscal health.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 23, 2013)
(2013年1月23日02時00分  読売新聞)

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邦人死亡確認 人命軽視はやむを得ないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 24, 2013)
Was military action only way to end Algerian siege?
邦人死亡確認 人命軽視はやむを得ないか(1月23日付・読売社説)

The Algerian hostage crisis has ended with tragic consequences.

Seven Japanese, including employees of plant engineering and manufacturing firm JGC Corp., were confirmed to have been killed during an attack on an Algerian natural gas plant by a group of Islamist militants.

We condemn the criminal group for targeting "corporate warriors" diligently working in a foreign country under severe conditions.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the terrorist attack Tuesday, saying: "It's extremely heartbreaking. We'll never tolerate terrorism." We agree entirely.

The siege was unusual in that more than 30 heavily armed terrorists held hostage scores of people from several countries, including Japan, Britain and the United States.

An investigation must be conducted urgently to get to the bottom of this incident. Suspicion has arisen that the assailants had collaborators at the plant who provided information and guidance.

At a news conference Monday, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said 37 foreigners died and 29 militants were killed in the siege.


Hostages' lives not priority?

The Algerian military operation to bring the situation under control as soon as possible has been criticized for not giving enough consideration to the hostages' lives. Sellal stood by the decision to launch the assault by stressing his government's stance of not yielding to terrorism. His statement also reflects the domestic situation in which long years of civil war killed as many as 150,000 people in Algeria.

Sellal said launching the military operation soon after the siege started was necessary because the militants had attempted to flee Algeria with the hostages and planted explosives in a bid to blow up the gas complex.

If the militants had been allowed to get away with their crimes, it could lead to second and third terrorist attacks. The Algerian government apparently felt it had no alternative but to resort to the use of force.

Any unilateral attack on economic activity in a civilized society must be met with return fire.

British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that his government was not told of the military operation in advance. But after the siege ended, he showed a degree of understanding of the early Algerian military operation by saying resolving the crisis would be a very difficult mission for security forces of any country.


Lessons for Japan

The Abe administration has dispatched a government-chartered aircraft to Algeria to bring home survivors and the victims' bodies. We also urge the government to quickly confirm what happened to three Japanese who remain unaccounted for.

It is important that the Algerian government be asked to give detailed explanations on the circumstances under which the military operation was conducted, and how the Japanese died.

The crisis has brought problems with the Japanese government's crisis management system to the surface.

Like the United States and European countries also affected by the siege, Japan only obtained scant snippets of information while the Algerian forces conducted the military operation.

Japan has 49 uniformed defense attaches stationed overseas, including only two in Africa--one in Egypt and one in Sudan. The number of such attaches in Africa must be steadily increased.

To protect Japanese firms operating in troubled regions, specialists with expertise on these areas and antiterrorism measures should be trained, and the nation's information-gathering and analyzing capabilities strengthened.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 23, 2013)
(2013年1月23日02時00分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月23日 (水)

桜宮高体育入試 深刻な体罰が招いた中止決定

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 23, 2013)
Corporal punishment must be stamped out at schools
桜宮高体育入試 深刻な体罰が招いた中止決定(1月22日付・読売社説)

With less than one month to go before the high school was to hold entrance exams for a couple of courses, the Osaka Municipal Board of Education made a very unusual decision.

The board suspended entrance exams for the physical education course and the sports and health science course at the municipality-run Sakuranomiya High School, which was attended by a student who committed suicide after he was slapped by his basketball coach. The decision was made at the request of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

The board probably felt the corporal punishment at the school was so serious that suspension of the entrance exams was inevitable.

Hashimoto said, "As long as there is a tendency to tolerate physical punishment at the school, it should not be allowed to accept new students."

He even hinted at the possibility of freezing the government's budget for the school's entrance exams by exercising his executive power as mayor if the school held the entrance exams as scheduled.

All members except for the head of the five-member board supported Hashimoto, saying, "If the entrance exams [for the courses] are held as planned, it will not lead to reform of the school."


Anxieties over suspension

In reaching this conclusion, the board placed priority on the need to fundamentally change the school's customs, where corporal punishment was considered normal because victory was everything.

However, many people expressed concern about the possible effects of the suspension. It will have a serious impact on middle school students preparing for the school's entrance exam, they said.

It is important for the board to minimize possible confusion stemming from the suspension.

The board plans to have applicants who want to take sports-related courses at the school apply for the general course instead.

The number of applicants for the general course will be increased by 120, the number normally allocated to the two sports-related courses.

While the number of subjects for the general course is usually set at five, applicants who wanted to take sports-related exams will be tested in three subjects--the usual number for these courses--plus a practical test.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura said, "As long as some consideration is given to applicants to avoid having [an adverse] impact, I would say, 'That's good.'" This shows his understanding of the board's decision.
The board's decision can be considered realistic in setting a future course for applicants. But will new students be able to shift to sports-related courses in the future?


Future course for applicants

Behind Hashimoto's call to have the entrance exams suspended is his sense of distrust in Sakuranomiya High School and the board.

The school's basketball coach built the boys basketball club into a powerhouse during the 19 years he has spent there. However, the board has a general principle that a teacher employed at the same school for more than 10 years must be transferred to another school. The length of time the coach spent at the school made it difficult for others to criticize him.

It was also problematic that the school, despite being aware of previous corporal punishment cases, concluded in a perfunctory investigation that there was no abuse.

What is most important now is to determine the real state of corporal punishment at the school and explore ways to prevent it from recurring.

Hashimoto has called for the board to have all teachers-cum-coaches of the high school's sports clubs replaced.

It is necessary at least to take severe disciplinary action against the teacher in question and have him transferred to another school. With appropriate realignment of personnel, corporal punishment must be stamped out.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 22, 2013)
(2013年1月22日01時34分  読売新聞)

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防衛指針見直し 同盟強化へ日本の役割拡充を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 23, 2013)
Japan's role must be enhanced in defense cooperation with U.S.
防衛指針見直し 同盟強化へ日本の役割拡充を(1月22日付・読売社説)

The effectiveness of the Japan-U.S. alliance cannot be guaranteed through a treaty and documents alone. It is essential to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces and enhance the relationship of trust between the two nations by having Japan undertake its fair share of responsibilities and burdens.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have started reviewing the guidelines for bilateral defense cooperation. Given the Chinese military's recent expanded maritime activities and other factors, the review of guidelines is meant to effectively strengthen cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces.

The current guidelines released in 1997 enabled the SDF to provide logistic support to U.S. forces in the event of an emergency in areas surrounding Japan, and led to the establishment of legislation in 1999 on the nation's response to such contingencies.

It was of great significance that defense cooperation was concretely stipulated in preparations for any contingency on the Korean Peninsula--a crisis that could happen on Japan's doorstep--and that a new direction for the Japan-U.S. alliance in the post-Cold War era was clearly spelled out.


Security situation severe

But since then, the security situation in areas around Japan has become even more severe: China is pushing on with a robust military buildup and has engaged in saber-rattling around the Senkaku Islands, and North Korea conducted two nuclear tests.

This fundamental review of Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, for the first time in 16 years, fits in neatly with the United States' "rebalance" toward Asia, which was clearly expressed in its new defense strategy guidelines released in January last year, and the planned revision of Japan's National Defense Program Guidelines as early as this year. We highly regard the review of bilateral defense cooperation.

One focal point in this process will be tightening Japan-U.S. cooperation in times of peace.

Since the contingency law was established, an emergency situation has yet to be recognized under the law. It is imperative that the SDF and U.S. forces work closely in sharing information to prevent a crisis from occurring and establish systems to jointly deal with any situation that has become tense but is yet to reach the point of being an emergency.

We want more joint exercises by the Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps for the defense of remote islands, and expanded warning and surveillance operations through joint operations by the Air Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Air Force of Global Hawk unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.


Ease restrictions on support

The SDF can provide refueling and transport support to U.S. forces only in emergency situations. We suggest consideration be given to enabling these operations in times of peace as well.

Cooperation should not just be limited to the SDF and U.S. forces, but also concrete measures for cooperation involving such organs as the Japan Coast Guard and police, as well as the military forces of South Korea, Australia and India, should be compiled.

Another key issue in the spotlight is whether Japan can exercise its right to collective self-defense.

The government is expected to soon hear opinions again from an expert panel launched under the first Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and start studying how to handle the right to collective self-defense.

If a U.S. military vessel comes under attack during a joint exercise on the high seas, an SDF vessel will launch a counterattack. If a ballistic missile is heading toward the United States, Japan will intercept it. These are among four scenarios that had been studied by the expert panel. We think it is an urgent task to enable the nation to use its right to collective self-defense in these four scenarios.

Reflecting such a tangible result properly in the process of reviewing the defense cooperation guidelines will further solidify the Japan-U.S. alliance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 22, 2013)
(2013年1月22日01時34分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月22日 (火)

刑事司法改革 冤罪防止と捜査力向上を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 22, 2013)
Reform investigative system to prevent false charges
刑事司法改革 冤罪防止と捜査力向上を図れ(1月21日付・読売社説)

To regain public trust, prosecutors and police should establish a system to prevent false accusations and enhance investigative capabilities.

A subcommittee of the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council, which studied reform of the criminal justice system following a series of scandals involving prosecutors, has compiled a set of recommendations. On the basis of these proposals, the council will work out how to reform the criminal justice system.

It is appropriate that the panel recommended the introduction of audiovisual recordings of interrogations, a major point at issue.

Interrogations in closed rooms could induce investigators to lead suspects into making false confessions, resulting in wrongful accusations.

In a recent case, innocent people who were wrongly arrested on suspicion of sending online threats via their personal computers, which were later found to have been infected with a virus that allowed a third party to control them remotely, were forced to write statements confessing to crimes they did not commit.

If audiovisual recordings are made during the questioning of suspects, interrogations can be verified by replaying recorded scenes. This would be effective in deterring high-handed investigations.


Recording interrogations

The main sticking point is how much of the interrogations should be audiovisually recorded. To ensure these interrogations can be examined thoroughly, wide coverage is desirable.

On the other hand, it is possible suspects involved in organized crime may hesitate to testify for fear of retaliation, making it difficult for investigators to solve crimes.

It is understandable for the panel to suggest in its draft that a system should be devised to exclude audiovisual recordings of interrogations of suspects that could hinder investigations.

In deciding when and in what cases recordings should be excluded, it is important to analyze the results of audiovisual recordings of interrogations that have been conducted on a trial basis by prosecutors and police.

The panel also proposed ways to collect evidence that would prevent investigators from relying on interrogations too much.


Expand wiretapping

One method is an expanded use of wiretapping. Under the current law, wiretapping is allowed for certain crimes, such as those involving drugs and firearms. However, the number of cases in which this was permitted has been extremely limited.

The draft proposes an expansion of wiretapping to cover new and fast-rising types of organized crime, such as bank transfer scams. This recommendation is appropriate to ensure public safety.

The panel has also proposed that plea-bargaining, which is widely used in the United States and Europe, should be studied further.

In plea-bargaining, prosecutors would seek a lesser punishment or decide not to prosecute if suspects reveal crimes committed by their accomplices.

While plea-bargaining is expected to win the cooperation of suspects, there is a possibility the victim of a crime would not understand if a suspect received a punishment not commensurate to the crime.

We hope the issue of whether to introduce such methods will receive in-depth discussion.

Also, it is urgent to review so-called hostage justice, under which suspects who deny the charges against them remain in custody. Depriving suspects of their freedom for a protracted period could pressure them into making confessions, one of the factors that have led to false accusations.

Proper rules on the custody of suspects must be drawn up.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2013)
(2013年1月21日01時50分  読売新聞)

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邦人人質事件 テロ封じに国際連携が肝要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 22, 2013)
Intl cooperation needed to stamp out terrorism
邦人人質事件 テロ封じに国際連携が肝要だ(1月21日付・読売社説)

The terrorist attack and hostage-taking incident launched by an armed Islamist group in Algeria has come to a bloody end.

It will be essential to get to the bottom of this incident so measures to prevent any repeat occurrence can be devised.

The incident at a natural gas plant at Ain Amenas in eastern Algeria ended Saturday, three days after it started, when Algerian special forces stormed the complex to bring the situation under control.

Dozens of Islamist militants and hostages have been confirmed dead, according to the Algerian government. The dead reportedly include Japanese employees of JGC Corp., a major plant engineering and manufacturing firm. We offer our sincere condolences to the victims caught up in this incident and their families.

Algerian government forces launched an attack on the terrorists Thursday, the day after the hostages were seized. This reflected its sense of urgency that similar terrorist attacks might follow unless the crisis was brought under control immediately.


Attack can't be condoned

In the 1990s, about 150,000 people were killed in an internal war between Algerian government forces and Islamist militants. In view of this, the Algerian government was unbending in its refusal of any request for negotiations with the terrorists this time.

The Islamist group's capture of plant workers and taking them hostage is a despicable act of terrorism that can never be condoned. This is obvious. But a question arises over whether the Algerian military operation was taken after carefully working out a strategy from the viewpoint of rescuing the hostages.

In talks with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal over the telephone Sunday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed regret that the crisis had ended in a bloodbath. Abe was quoted as telling Sellal: "Japan had called for giving top priority to the hostages' safety. It was regrettable that we received severe information about the Japanese hostages."


Lack of communication

British Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that his government was not told of the attack in advance. Communication between the Algerian government and countries affected by the crisis was not smooth, and Algeria's release of information on the safety of hostages has been insufficient.

The Algerian government must unveil to the international community all the details of the hostage crisis and its rescue operations after investigating why it could not prevent the militants from entering a vital gas plant where many foreigners work.

Armed Islamist forces are active not only in Algeria but also in northern and western areas of Africa. Unraveling the hostage-taking incident will help shed more light on this situation.

The international community must use this incident as a step toward standing firm against terrorism and taking effective steps to stamp it out.

The siege has left many issues to be addressed by Japanese companies operating overseas. They need to urgently review their crisis prevention and response arrangements.

Abe took the lead in working out government measures to handle the hostage crisis. It may be said that Japan reacted diligently to the crisis, with the Prime Minister's Office at the heart of the response.

However, the government's information-gathering and analyzing capabilities have been revealed to be inadequate. The government should consider necessary measures including a review of the personnel in diplomatic missions overseas. Further efforts must be made to bolster the country's crisis management system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2013)
(2013年1月21日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月21日 (月)

高齢者施設火災 ずさん管理を戒める判決だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 21, 2013)
Ruling should serve as warning for better nursing care facilities
高齢者施設火災 ずさん管理を戒める判決だ(1月20日付・読売社説)

A court ruling handed down last week should be viewed as a warning against sloppy management at nursing care facilities for elderly people.

A fire in 2009 at Seiyo Home Tamayura nursing home in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, claimed the lives of 10 of its residents.

In Friday's ruling, the Maebashi District Court sentenced a former director of the facility to two years' imprisonment, suspended for four years, after finding him guilty of professional negligence resulting in death.

At the time of the blaze, only one caretaker was on duty, the ruling said. A number of combustibles, such as plastic containers of kerosene and cardboard boxes were left in the hallways of the facility, but no smoke detectors had been installed. The nursing home also had never conducted any emergency drills.

The court naturally condemned the nursing home for its poor management by failing to take necessary steps to ensure its residents' safety, a responsibility that the ruling said constitutes the basis of the facility's operation.

The facility was an unregistered nursing home. Single elderly people from Sumida Ward, Tokyo, were accommodated there through arrangements made by the ward government.


Acute shortage of facilities

As the ward government had elderly people taken care of by the unregistered nursing home without first conducting studies on how the facility was run, the authorities concerned should bear part of the responsibility for the tragedy.

Unfortunately, the Sumida Ward case is not unique.

Many other ward governments in Tokyo also have been arranging to have their elderly residents sent to nursing facilities outside the metropolitan area.

Of about 2,800 elderly people from Tokyo wards who are in nursing homes while receiving welfare benefits, about 70 percent have been living in facilities outside Tokyo.

Many nursing homes concerned are unregistered, and like Seiyo Home Tamayura their fees are far less expensive than registered facilities.

There are about 250 unregistered nursing facilities nationwide, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey.

This situation is a result of the acute shortage of nursing facilities in Tokyo and other big cities. High land prices in major urban centers make it difficult to secure plots of land to build new nursing homes.

To address this problem, the government has set up a subsidy system for building such facilities in urban areas, with the aim of increasing "low-cost homes for the aged." However, little progress has been made in this respect.


Exploit private sector

As long as elderly people are being sent to facilities outside Tokyo, it is imperative that ward governments ensure the safety of the residents by determining how the facilities are managed and carrying out regular safety checks.

Efforts should also be redoubled to devise plans to enable people in urban areas to continue to live in communities they are used to. Toward this end, new or remodeled housing units friendly to elderly people must be prepared, in addition to expanding in-home care services.

Making better use of private-sector capabilities is essential for these plans to move forward.

A notable example of such an initiative is a program by a government-authorized nonprofit organization to lease apartments as housing units to accommodate and provide proper nursing care to elderly people.

If vacant properties in urban areas are converted into facilities for the aging population, the costs involved would likely be much lower than constructing new nursing homes.

Cooperation between local governments and the private sector is key to taking on these tasks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2013)
(2013年1月20日01時41分  読売新聞)

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日米外相会談 中国「力ずく外交」に結束せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 21, 2013)
Japan, U.S. must stand up to China's strong-arm diplomacy
日米外相会談 中国「力ずく外交」に結束せよ(1月20日付・読売社説)

China is trying to forcibly undermine Japan's effective control of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture by sending government ships and planes to their vicinity. It is significant that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday opposed such strong-arm diplomacy by Beijing.

"We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration" of the islands, Clinton said after holding talks with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington.

She also reconfirmed that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty obliges the United States to defend Japan in the event of hostilities related to the Senkakus.

Acknowledging Clinton's remarks, Kishida stressed Japan would never concede its sovereignty over the islands. But he also said, "We intend to respond calmly."

If China's high-handed diplomacy, which is trying to alter the reality of the Senkaku Islands through shows of strength, is allowed to prevail, it would have repercussions for other territorial and maritime interests disputes in the East China and South China seas. This would negatively affect many Asian nations.

The nations concerned must work together to avoid such a situation from occurring.

Tokyo should explain to the United States and Southeast Asian countries the significance of the Senkaku issue to nurture international opinion opposing China's modus operandi. At the same time, however, Japan must maintain dialogue with China and seek improved bilateral ties.


Get moving on TPP talks

Meanwhile, Kishida and Clinton agreed Japan and the United States would continue bilateral talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. These two-way talks are a precondition for Japan joining TPP negotiations.

However, Kishida said that if abolishing all tariffs without exception is a prerequisite to participating in TPP negotiations, Japan will not join them.
Kishida's explanation went no further than the government's conventional position because many members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party remain strongly opposed to or cautious toward liberalizing the nation's farm market.

However, some observers say Washington wants to exclude tariffs on sugar and other items from being abolished. It is a fact that Japan can only find out how many items it can exclude from tariff abolition after it actually joins TPP negotiations.

Eleven countries participating in the trade talks, including the United States and Australia, aim to conclude the pact by the end of this year. If Tokyo keeps waiting to see what unfolds, delaying its participation in the negotiations, Japan might consequently fail to have its claims reflected in the new trade rules and hurt its own national interests.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States has been set for the latter half of February. Considering this, Abe should do more to create conditions that will enable him to decide on Japan's participation in the TPP. These conditions would include the government officially calculating the economic effects that joining the TPP would produce.


Share info on hostage crisis

Kishida and Clinton also agreed both nations would cooperate closely in gathering and sharing information on their nationals taken hostage by Islamist militants at a gas plant in Algeria.

Many of the hostages, including foreigners, were reportedly killed during an assault the Algerian Army launched to try to free them. The international community has expressed concern over this hard-line operation.

Japan and the United States should work jointly with countries concerned to urge the Algerian government to take action that places top priority on protecting the lives of the hostages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2013)
(2013年1月20日01時41分  読売新聞)

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軽減税率 「消費税8%」で導入すべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 20, 2013)
Daily needs should get lower rate when tax goes to 8%
軽減税率 「消費税8%」で導入すべきだ(1月19日付・読売社説)

The government should make a political decision to apply a reduced consumption tax rate to foods and other necessities when it raises the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Negotiations on tax system revisions for fiscal 2013 among the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan are entering a critical stage. However, we find it a problem that they are not planning to mention details on a reduced tax rate--including when to introduce it--in an outline of tax system revisions to be compiled next week.

The LDP and Komeito have agreed with each other on introducing a reduced tax rate. Though Komeito says it should be introduced when the consumption tax rate is hiked in April 2014, some members of the LDP strongly insist it should be introduced when the consumption tax is raised again in October 2015 to 10 percent.


Problems to solve

LDP Tax System Research Commission Chairman Takeshi Noda said introduction of a reduced tax rate would pose problems for the retail industry and small and midsize companies.

Calculating the amount of the reduced tax will create a heavy administrative workload for them, and they do not have enough time to deal with it, according to Noda.

However, there is still more than one year before the consumption tax rate will be hiked. We think the government and the ruling parties can work out the institutional arrangements for a reduced tax rate in time if all parties work hard.

Some are expressing cautious opinions that it is not easy to decide which items should be subject to a reduced tax rate, but we think the government should just narrow them down to such items as rice, miso (soy bean paste), soy sauce, newspapers and other necessities.

Reconciling different interests is one of the responsibilities of politicians. We have to say they would be shirking their duties if they tried to avoid the trouble of deciding which items will be subject to a reduced consumption tax rate. As a possible relief measure for low-income earners, a plan to give them cash rebates is the most widely accepted for the first-stage increase. But we think doling out cash is a mere stopgap measure.

The DPJ, which opposes introduction of a reduced tax rate, is proposing a tax exemption for low-income earners in combination with cash rebates. However, we have doubts about its effectiveness.


No tax on knowledge

Introduction of a reduced tax rate has the advantage that consumers can experience a lighter tax burden every time they purchase food or other necessities subject to the reduced rate.

Europeans in general do not oppose value-added taxes exceeding 20 percent because reduced tax rates applied to foods and other necessities apparently profoundly affect consumers.

Newspapers and books are also subject to reduced tax rates in major countries around the world, including European nations and South Korea, because they are considered public property that sustains democracy.

It is apparently common sense in the world that reduced tax rates are applied to newspapers because it is widely believed that knowledge should not be taxed.

More than 80 percent of respondents to a survey by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association favored a reduced consumption tax rate for necessities. And 75 percent were positive about applying a reduced tax rate to newspapers and books. These results are significant.

Taking such public opinion into consideration, the LDP, Komeito and the DPJ should not hesitate to introduce a reduced tax rate at an early stage.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 19, 2013)
(2013年1月19日01時43分  読売新聞)

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東南アジア歴訪 連携して台頭中国と向き合え

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 20, 2013)
Abe Cabinet must seek cooperation to face China
東南アジア歴訪 連携して台頭中国と向き合え(1月19日付・読売社説)

Keeping Southeast Asia peaceful and open is in the joint interest of the international community. Japan needs to face a rising China by closely cooperating with other countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia on his first overseas trip after taking office. During summit meetings, Abe and his counterparts agreed to further bolster strategic partnerships, including those concerning security.

The three countries--key members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations--have close trade and investment ties with Japan. Ahead of Abe's visit, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso visited Myanmar while Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida made a trip to the Philippines and other Asia-Pacific countries.

With such ministerial tours, the Abe Cabinet has demonstrated its stance of focusing on ASEAN countries, a diplomatic push into the region apparently made with China in mind.

At a press conference in Jakarta, Abe listed new principles for his administration's Asian diplomacy. They included calls for respect for democracy and other universal values, a free and open economy and developing maritime order not by force but by law and rules.


China's growing presence

As for China, Abe said, "It's important [for that country] to take responsible action in the international community."

Abe was apparently referring to China's repeated diplomatic intimidation using warships over the sovereignty of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has also threatened Japan's territorial rights to the Senkaku Islands by taking provocative action to claim sovereignty over the islets.

Abe's remarks may have engendered sympathy from not only countries that have territorial rows with China but also from nations currently under pressure from Beijing.

In recent years, China's presence in Asia has increased dramatically. ASEAN has found it difficult to reach a consensus on restraining China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as some of its members are close to Beijing.

A situation in which ASEAN yields to China's might and caters to the country's demands must be avoided.

In light of this, calls are growing for Japan to develop a strategic diplomacy.

One approach is deciding for Japan to participate in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and putting the deal into force quickly.


Materialize diplomatic efforts

Abe is expected to visit the United States as early as February to hold talks with President Barack Obama. For Japan, boosting its relationship with ASEAN is vital also to rebuild trust with the United States, which has rolled out a foreign policy that refocuses on Asia.

On his three-country tour, Abe said Japan will work with these countries to develop their social infrastructure, through means such as exports of high-speed railway systems and nuclear power generation systems. Such cooperation would also contribute to Japan's economic growth, the top priority for the Abe administration.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN friendship and cooperation. By taking advantage of various opportunities, we hope the Abe administration will bring its strategic diplomacy into shape.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 19, 2013)
(2013年1月19日01時43分  読売新聞)

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中国大気汚染 成長至上主義の限界露呈した

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 19, 2013)
China's air pollution shows limits of focus on growth
中国大気汚染 成長至上主義の限界露呈した(1月18日付・読売社説)

China now has to pay the price for its distorted policy of ignoring environmental protection measures as a result of its focus on economic growth above all else.

In various Chinese cities, air pollution has become a serious problem. In Beijing, for instance, the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less--known as PM2.5--found per cubic meter in smoke from factories and exhaust gas from automobiles briefly rose to more than 10 times the recommended environmental standard in China and nearly 40 times the safe limit in the guideline set by the World Health Organization.

PM2.5 particles can penetrate deep inside the lungs, causing asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer. Thick smog containing these particles has been generated in China, and the number of people with respiratory ailments has sharply increased. Low visibility caused by the smog has greatly affected traffic.


Environment ignored

The daily life of Japanese living in the country has been also threatened, with two schools for Japanese children in Shanghai recently suspending students' outside activities. This is a serious environmental pollution that cannot be overlooked.

The main causes of the thick smog are an increase in exhaust gas, the combustion of coal for heating and a lack of strong wind, resulting in the retention of polluted air in the atmosphere. The phenomenon occurs every year around this time, but this year the pollution is extremely bad.

Factors behind the situation include the disorderly expansion of production activities along with sharp economic growth and a drastic increase in the number of automobiles.

Manufacturers do not observe environmental regulations and regional authorities do not supervise them strictly. The quality of desulfurization devices is said to be poor and some even say many are not operating.

Under a "scientific development concept" banner, the previous administration of Hu Jintao transformed the country's gross domestic product-centered policy and declared it would aim at sustainable development while also paying consideration to the environment. However, the current reality shows the level of China's environmental pollution has already gone beyond the acceptable limit.

If environmental measures are delayed, the Chinese government will have to pay a great price for its mistaken policy. The Xi Jinping administration must fully recognize this and take measures to sufficiently deal with the air pollution.


Japan's problem, too

For Japan, the air pollution in China is not a fire on the opposite side of the river. Similarly to yellow sand, the particles will disperse into neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea via westerly winds. So it is unavoidable for the pollutants to cause a certain degree of contamination across borders.

Although it is not yet determined that they came from China, particulate matter exceeding the Japanese safety level has been observed in Japan. Caution will be necessary hereafter.

Japan has promoted cooperation with China in energy saving and environmental protection to create a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. We wonder to what extent this policy produced results.

More than a dozen nuclear reactors have been operating in China, and the government plans to construct more than 50 additional reactors.

If a reactor accident took place, it would have an immeasurable effect on Japan. There must be many ways Japan can cooperate with China in this field.

Japan should patiently appeal to China about the importance of environmental problems and needs to call on the country to utilize the know-how of Japan's antipollution measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2013)
(2013年1月18日02時01分  読売新聞)

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邦人人質事件 イスラム過激派の許せぬテロ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 19, 2013)
Govt must deal sternly with Islamic extremists' terrorism
邦人人質事件 イスラム過激派の許せぬテロ(1月18日付・読売社説)

In a despicable act of terrorism, a group of Islamist extremists seized a natural gas complex in Ain Amenas in eastern Algeria on Wednesday and took a large number of foreign hostages, including Japanese and U.S. nationals.

The Japanese taken hostage are apparently employees of or related to JGC Corp., a Yokohama-based plant manufacturer known as Nikki in Japanese. Details about their safety remain unknown.

The Algerian military launched a military attack aimed at rescuing the hostages, but there are reports many of them may have been killed.

This is an extremely worrying situation.

It is a matter of course for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a visit to Hanoi, to strongly condemn the hostage-taking incident, saying it "can never be tolerated."

Japan and other countries involved in the hostage crisis must work together and cooperate with the Algerian government to rescue the hostages.

The identity of the hostage-takers has not been fully confirmed. However, they claim their action is in retaliation for the French military's intervention in neighboring Mali and they are demanding French troops cease military operations.


Influx of insurgents into Mali

The Mali government has been undermined since a coup d'etat last year by rebels in the country's military. Taking advantage of this situation, armed Islamist extremists streamed into Mali from Algeria and seized control of Mali's northern region. Foreigners have been frequently abducted in Mali, making the country's security situation even more precarious.

In December, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in response to requests from the Malian government, authorizing military intervention by the country's neighbors.

It was perhaps inevitable that France, Mali's former colonial power, found it necessary to launch military operations in that country to defeat the armed Islamist forces. Should the stability of North Africa become even more convulsive because of the rampant militancy of the armed extremists, the region's already serious situation could deteriorate.

The hostage crisis is a major challenge for Abe's administration. The capability of the Abe government, which has defined the task of crisis management as one of its three policy pillars alongside resuscitation of the economy and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, is now being tested.

The initial government response to the hostage crisis was swift.


Beef up intl cooperation

In a telephone call to his Algerian counterpart after the crisis began, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida urged that every possible effort should be made to ensure the safety of the hostages. The government lost no time in deciding to send Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi, who was on a tour of European nations, to Algeria.

The government also set up a countermeasures task force comprising ministers concerned to deal with the crisis. In the task force's first session, it confirmed a policy of "making people's lives the top priority."

In another conversation over the phone, Abe and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on the need for the two countries to cooperate closely in resolving the crisis.

Eradicating terrorism cannot be achieved without strengthening the cooperation of the international community to resolutely deal with terrorist acts.

Not only in Algeria but also in other countries in the Middle East and Africa, terrorists frequently target foreign nationals.

The Foreign Ministry should exert every effort to ensure the safety of Japanese in these areas by remaining in close contact with the United States and other countries so they can exchange pertinent information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2013)
(2013年1月18日02時01分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月18日 (金)

生活保護費 支給基準の適正化が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 18, 2013)
Livelihood protection benefits should reflect change in income level
生活保護費 支給基準の適正化が必要だ(1月17日付・読売社説)

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's Social Security Council has announced the results of a survey examining the nation's livelihood protection benefits.

For some households receiving benefits, the amount of standard livelihood assistance--a program to offset food and other living expenses--exceeded the living expenses of the average low-income household, the council report showed.

Such inconsistencies stem from the drop in general wage levels under deflation. Following a cut in fiscal 2004, the amount of standard livelihood assistance has remained the same after factors such as the surge in oil prices in recent years have been accounted for.

We believe it is necessary to modify the amount of livelihood protection benefits from the perspective of the public, which expects all citizens to be treated fairly by the government. A decrease in livelihood protection benefits to reflect the drop in income level is inevitable.

However, in the case of elderly households, the amount of standard livelihood assistance received was lower than the living expenses of low-income earners who did not qualify for livelihood protection benefits. Thus we believe it would not be appropriate to reduce the amount of livelihood protection benefits indiscriminately.

It must be taken into consideration that the basic amount of livelihood protection benefits is taken account when deciding the minimum wage and other widespread standards. Using cuts in livelihood protection benefits to justify keeping the minimum wage at a low level must be avoided. We urge the government to consider people who work hard without relying on welfare benefits.


Effective job support is key

Due to a prolonged recession, there has been a rapid increase in the number of recipients of livelihood protection benefits. Recent cases of working-age welfare recipients--a worrying trend--have drawn national attention. The government must keep in mind the importance of measures helping those suffering from economic hardships to eventually stand on their own.

The Social Security Council has drawn up measures to assist poor people with finding jobs.

The measures are aimed at those who do not currently receive welfare benefits but are at risk of becoming recipients in the future due to low income levels. The council deserves praise for setting measures to assist a group that had been relatively neglected by the government in the past.

A new measure known as "transitional job assistance" targets people unable to find work due to difficulties in building social relationships. The government will provide training through programs such as nursing assistance services, clean-up activities and recycling. The council sees such training as a stepping stone for participants to find stable jobs.

It is also important to expand the number of places where job training is available, which is currently limited to certain municipalities and facilities.


Enrich housing support

It is vital to secure access to housing, as a considerable number of people have lost their homes after being fired from their workplaces, including being evicted from company dormitories.

Since 2009, a government measure has provided housing allowances to such people with a precondition of being engaged in job hunting, and more than half of the recipients have been able to find new jobs. While the housing allowance is a temporary measure, we believe it is worth making into a permanent program.

When the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed to form a coalition government, they stipulated in writing that the administration would promote employment support to recipients of livelihood protection benefits. We urge the government to steadily implement this pledge.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2013)
(2013年1月17日00時34分  読売新聞)

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オウム断定敗訴 公安警察の暴走に強い警告

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 18, 2013)
Aleph defamation ruling a warning to police
オウム断定敗訴 公安警察の暴走に強い警告(1月17日付・読売社説)

The Tokyo District Court has given a strong rebuke to police authorities over their insistence that Aum cult members were behind the 1995 shooting of Japan's top police chief, even though there was not enough evidence to establish a case against them.

The court acknowledged Wednesday that the Metropolitan Police Department's announcement on its investigations into the gun attack on the National Police Agency commissioner general defamed Aleph--the new name part of the Aum Supreme Truth cult adopted--and ordered the Tokyo metropolitan government to pay 1 million yen in compensation to the religious group.

In an unusual step, the court also ordered the Tokyo government to submit a written apology to Aleph.

The ruling harshly criticized the MPD, describing its announcement as a "grave illegality that runs counter to the principle of presumption of innocence."

The MPD must take the ruling to heart.


Evidence lacking

The announcement in question was made by the head of the public security section at a press conference on March 30, 2010, when the statute of limitations on the case of the shooting of then Commissioner General Takaji Kunimatsu had expired. Kunimatsu was seriously injured in the attack.

The section chief said the MPD's investigation had determined the incident was an organized and planned terrorist attack by eight Aum members--including two senior members of the cult and an MPD officer who was an Aum member at the time of the shooting--under the control of Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto, better known as Shoko Asahara. Matsumoto is now on death row.

The three were arrested by the public security section, but they were not indicted by prosecutors because they found that the suspects' statements lacked credibility.

Despite these developments, the MPD's public security section determined--even without hard evidence--that Aum members had committed the shooting. Prosecutors should present a case in a trial, and it is up to courts to decide whether a defendant is guilty. The MPD's announcement strayed far from accepted criminal court procedures.

The incident also suggests that public safety police officers, who must catch members of terrorist organizations, extremists and spies, employ coercive methods in their investigations.

It is reasonable that the court ruled that this incident "shook the basic principles of the criminal justice system to the core."


Who knew what?

The public security section faced many difficulties while investigating Kunimatsu's shooting. On the other hand, other serious incidents in which the criminal investigation section played the leading investigative role--including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and the 1990 murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family--have been proven to be acts committed by Aum.

We wonder if the public security section was more concerned about saving its own face when it went ahead with the announcement, even though other MPD officials and prosecutors opposed it.

A close watch should be kept over Aleph, since some of its facilities still display Matsumoto's portrait. The group has been put under surveillance based on the Subversive Organizations Control Law. The order to pay compensation from public funds and apologize to such an organization is a huge black eye for the police. It will not be easy for the police--which have been hit by a series of scandals--to restore people's trust in the force.

Why could the head of the public safety section not be dissuaded from making the announcement? How much did top officials at the MPD and the NPA know about what he would announce? Thorough reviews will have to be made to prevent a recurrence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2013)
(2013年1月17日00時34分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月17日 (木)

787トラブル 「夢の翼」も安全であってこそ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 17, 2013)
Safety must come first for Boeing 787 operators
787トラブル 「夢の翼」も安全であってこそ(1月16日付・読売社説)

Japanese and U.S. aviation authorities have launched investigations into a recent series of glitches, including fuel leaks, with Boeing Co.'s latest midsize aircraft, the 787.

Are there fears these small problems could lead to a serious accident? Safety must be the top priority. Authorities in both countries must conduct exhaustive investigations to determine the cause of the faults.

Made of lightweight carbon fiber, the 787 passenger plane's light body makes it more fuel-efficient. It has been dubbed "Dreamliner."

The 787 is widely expected to contribute significantly to improving airlines' earnings because it can fly long-distance routes at a lower cost. The U.S. aircraft maker has received orders for 800 Dreamliners from around the world. In autumn 2011, All Nippon Airways became the first airline to introduce the 787 into commercial service.

ANA has 17 of the aircraft in its fleet and Japan Airlines has seven, accounting for almost half of about 50 787s in service worldwide.


'Dreamliner' trouble-ridden

The recent spate of problems started Jan. 7, when a small fire started in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a JAL 787 parked on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport.

The following day, a fuel leak was found in the main wing of another JAL 787 as it taxied toward takeoff at the same airport.
These incidents were followed by problems with Dreamliners operated domestically by ANA, including an oil leak and a cracked cockpit window.

Aren't six incidents involving the 787 just this month alone too many?

Last year, a United Airlines 787 made an emergency landing due to a fault with its electronic system, and Qatar Airways also reported problems with the same model.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority announced it will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the 787's safety in terms of its design and manufacturing process. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said his agency wanted the review "to find out why safety-related incidents were occurring."

In Japan, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has established an expert team to conduct an independent investigation.


Many Japanese parts used

Newly introduced passenger planes, and not just the 787, are said to often be afflicted by small troubles. But we think both the Japanese and U.S. authorities were correct to take a serious view of the spate of incidents involving the Dreamliner.

The 787 was trouble-ridden from its development stage. The first 787 was delivered to ANA more than three years behind schedule.

Boeing has trumpeted the reliability of its 787, but it will be necessary to pinpoint whether cutting-edge technologies on the high-tech aircraft are connected to the spate of problems.

Carbon fiber and many parts used for manufacturing the 787's main wing, fuselage and tires are made in Japan. We hope Japanese makers of these components and the authorities concerned will work together to resolve the problems as early as possible.

Some observers say the ongoing investigation is very unlikely to lead to a revision of the plane's design, but we urge airlines operating Dreamliners to regularly check these aircraft.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2013)
(2013年1月16日00時16分  読売新聞)

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ドイツ「脱原発」 再生エネ普及に高いハードル

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 17, 2013)
Spread of renewable energy faces many hurdles
ドイツ「脱原発」 再生エネ普及に高いハードル(1月16日付・読売社説)

Many obstacles must be surmounted before the nation can introduce renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, on a full scale. Japan should learn from Germany's trial-and-error approach.

Germany has adopted a policy of ending nuclear power by abolishing all nuclear plants by 2022. Berlin pins its hopes on renewable energy as alternative power sources.

The main pillar of this policy to promote renewable energy in Germany is a fixed-price purchase system that was established in 2000. Under this system, power companies are obliged to purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources at high fixed prices for a specific number of years.

This resulted in a surge of companies entering the solar power generation and other renewable energy markets. The percentage of electricity generated by renewable energy sources to total electricity increased from 7 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2011.

However, this has resulted in a continuous increase in electricity rates because the cost of purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources is added to the rates.

Germans naturally complained after it was announced in October last year that in 2013 their average annual electricity bills were expected to rise by about 100 euros, or about 12,000 yen, per household.


Negative impact on business

Industrial circles also oppose the electricity rate hike because they are concerned about the negative impact the higher costs will have on their businesses.

Admitting shortcomings in the fixed-price purchase system, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier announced in the same month that the government would drastically review its renewable energy policy. The system, therefore, is now at a major crossroad.

The spread of renewable energy has not necessarily led to the promotion of related industries or employment in Germany. It is symbolic that German solar panel makers collapsed one after another when they lost out to cheap Chinese-made solar panels.

Wind power generation, a major renewable energy source, also has problems. Wind power plants have been set up mainly in the northern part of Germany, but areas that consume large amounts of electricity are industrial zones in the south. New power lines from north to south are needed, but their construction faces difficulty due to opposition from environmental groups.

In Japan, a fixed-price purchase system was launched last July under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan. It was modeled on Germany's system.


Learn from Germany

However, there are a number of problems with a system in which power companies purchase electricity from renewable energy sources at prices higher than normal for a maximum of 20 years. If the system is only advantageous to companies able to purchase a large quantity of solar panels, technological innovation will suffer. Revision of Japan's system, based on Germany's situation, is an urgent task.

The German government allows nine nuclear reactors to continue operating after confirming their safety, even though public opinion supports the abolition of nuclear power plants in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Germany's stable power supply is supported by electricity imported from neighboring countries and by ensuring that nuclear reactors will operate for nearly 10 more years.

In Japan, only two nuclear reactors are operating. Stable power supplies may suffer a blow unless the government quickly reactivates safe reactors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2013)
(2013年1月16日00時15分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月16日 (水)

ルネサス再建 政府主導で甘え断つ改革を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 16, 2013)
Ailing chipmaker Renesas must reform, achieve self-reliance
ルネサス再建 政府主導で甘え断つ改革を(1月15日付・読売社説)

Even if a company is indispensable to Japan's manufacturing industry, it will face difficulty reconstructuring itself under the government's initiative. Such a company needs to reform its management in a way that does not depend on government support.

The Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a state-backed investment fund, has decided to buy about 70 percent of shares in Renesas Electronics Corp., a major but financially troubled chipmaker, and put the company under its umbrella. Eight companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. will hold a combined 6 percent of shares in the chipmaker.

With total public and private investment amounting up to 200 billion yen, a rare "hinomaru coalition" support system has been established.

Renesas was founded by Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and NEC Corp., and is the world's largest maker of microcontroller chips, with a share of about 30 percent in the global market. The product controls the functions of motors in automobiles and home appliances.

The Great East Japan Earthquake caused major damage to Renesas' main factory. Many domestic companies were forced to halt production because they were unable to procure microcontrollers.


Inefficient management

This shows manufacturers are largely dependent on Renesas. However, Renesas has chalked up losses for seven consecutive years--including a period under one of its predecessors--and the company is expected to register a massive deficit this fiscal year.

The poor business performances seem to be caused by inefficient management under a motley collection of different companies and discount sales of a variety of products, kept in small volumes, to cater to the requests of clients.

A U.S. investment fund once offered to provide financial assistance. But if Renesas were placed under the umbrella of a foreign firm, it may result in an outflow of technology abroad or disruptions in the procurement of parts by domestic companies.

The public and private sectors share a sense of crisis over Renesas because it is a key company in the manufacturing field. Therefore, they took action to counter the foreign fund's buyout offensive.

The INCJ, which has taken over the management of Renesas, said it would help the company "build up a strong constitution capable of competing globally."

But even if the company boasts of high-level technology, optimism on its future outlook may not be warranted.

The government bears a grave responsibility in extending assistance to a private company by injecting a huge amount of public funds. The government must accelerate its efforts to make the company profitable.


Don't sell products cheaply

If client companies that have become major shareholders continue to ask Renesas to develop and produce microcontrollers cheaply, it will be difficult for the company to operate in the black. We believe it is necessary for the company to expand its sales channels overseas.

While additional restructuring measures, including job cuts, should proceed, efforts should be made for the company to invest vigorously in growing fields.

Elpida Memory Inc., another major chipmaker in which the government injected public funds, went bankrupt about three years after the assistance was extended. A repetition of this failure is unacceptable.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attaches importance to strengthening the nation's industrial competitiveness and has proposed the INCJ be used for this purpose. It also has called for the creation of a new fund to support companies so they can expand their overseas businesses. However, the point is not to launch a number of funds, but to ensure immediate tangible achievements.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2013)
(2013年1月15日00時16分  読売新聞)

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センター試験 大学は当事者意識持って臨め

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 16, 2013)
No room for glitches in unified college entrance exams
センター試験 大学は当事者意識持って臨め(1月15日付・読売社説)

Officials of the unified college entrance exams and universities that use the test for screening students must not allow a repeat of last year's confusion. They should double-check whether their preparations are foolproof.

About 570,000 applicants will take the test to be held Saturday and Sunday. A record 840 universities and junior colleges--national, prefectural, municipal and private--will use the test as part of their screening process.

We urge the National Center for University Entrance Examinations and the universities to stay vigilant to ensure the test goes off without a hitch.

Last year, about 7,000 students were affected by mistakes during the test, such as errors in distributing test books for geography and history, and civics, which were mainly caused by a change in the test system. The test start time was delayed at a venue in Miyagi Prefecture--one of the prefectures hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake--after devices for a listening test failed to arrive on time.


Lessons of last year

The national center has reviewed the process of distributing test books this year. Universities that provide venues for the test also have taken steps to prevent mistakes from happening, such as holding more briefing sessions for test supervisors and conducting rehearsals.

However, it is still too early for them to let their guard down. After reading a report by an Education, Culture, Sports and Science and Technology Ministry panel tasked with pinpointing why the errors occurred, universities that provided venues for last year's exams can only be described as lacking a sense of awareness as one of the parties involved.

According to the report, about 30 percent of the universities that bungled the distribution of test books failed to properly instruct test supervisors who did not attend briefing sessions, and instead only provided them with written documents in advance. In one case, a supervisor reportedly noticed a mistake when reading a supervising manual after the exams had started.

It is astonishing that some universities failed to understand the basic fact that the exams are managed jointly by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations and universities that use the exams.


Test has become 'too big'

The current exam format was introduced in 1990, remodeling a similar test called the Joint First-Stage Achievement Test. Universities that use the exams have increased each year. It has become a national barometer for assessing the level of scholastic achievements of high school students. The fact it has become widely accepted deserves praise.

This year, more than 100 public universities will use the exams to complement their admission screening based on recommendations from high schools, or interview- and essay-based tests known as "admission office exams," a system that puts more focus on assessing a student's personality.

Japanese students' worsening academic ability has become a serious problem. We believe there is a growing tendency among universities to use the unified exams to accurately gauge whether students have basic academic skills.

The main role for universities in the test is to provide venues where it can be taken. Because this burden is light, some private universities use the unified entrance exams as a tool to acquire applicants at low cost.

Under the current system, universities can freely choose which and how many exam subjects they use. This enables universities and colleges to tailor a wide variety of admission systems. However, at the same time, some students have been baffled by the complexity of the system.

Critics have long pointed out that the unified exams have become too big to be conducted all at once. It is important to bring problems with the test to light from various perspectives so it can be improved.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2013)
(2013年1月15日00時16分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月15日 (火)

薬のネット販売 安全確保するルール作り急務

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 15, 2013)
Rules needed urgently on online sales of safe drugs
薬のネット販売 安全確保するルール作り急務(1月14日付・読売社説)

The Supreme Court's recent ruling will essentially lift the ban on drugs sold through the Internet without a doctor's prescription.

Online retailers had demanded that the government acknowledge their right to sell nonprescription drugs, arguing that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's ordinance banning the sale of such drugs with a relatively high risk of side effects was illegal.

The top court last week rejected an appeal filed by the state against the Tokyo High Court decision that upheld the claims of two online retailers.

Under the revised Pharmaceutical Affairs Law that came into effect in 2009, the health ministry classified nonprescription drugs into three categories based on possible side effects. The ministry's ordinance made it mandatory for pharmacists to sell some digestive medicines, hair growth agents and other products over the counter, while banning their online sales.


Deregulation upheld

Arguing that the revised Pharmaceutical Affairs Law indicates no clear intention to make over-the-counter sales mandatory, the top court ruled that "the ordinance is illegal and invalid." The ruling, it may be said, criticized the ministry's action to regulate online sales without any legal basis.

The two retailers that won their case have resumed online sales. The online sales market is expected to further expand with the participation of other such retailers.

Health minister Norihisa Tamura expressed his intention to establish a panel that will study measures to relax control on online sales. The ministry plans to put forth a new policy before the end of this year, but rules on online sales must be worked out as soon as possible.

An advantage of the online sale of nonprescription drugs is that such drugs can be obtained by people living on remote islands and in mountain areas that do not have pharmacies or drugstores. It would also be benefit the disabled or the elderly, whose mobility is limited.

If the online sale of nonprescription drugs becomes common, it will reduce the burden on people working on the front lines of medicine. There are many cases in which people have been rushed to emergency hospitals for treatment of light colds. This has overtaxed doctors at such hospitals.


Lack of consistency

While stressing the need for self-medication to treat nonserious conditions at home, the ministry bans the online sale of nonprescription drugs. This obviously represents a lack of consistency in its policy stance.

It must be remembered, however, that the top court did not give a stamp of approval to the safety of nonprescription drugs sold online.

Side effects of some nonprescription drugs have been reported to the health ministry. There have also been deaths reported, although the number is small.

So it is all the more important to formulate rules on online sales while considering how to achieve a balance between convenience in buying drugs and drug safety.

The symptoms and conditions of drug buyers cannot be confirmed online. The online drug retailing industry is studying a method in which drugs cannot be purchased unless retailers' explanations on proper use and information about side effects are verified.

It is also essential to work out measures to deal with bulk purchases and illegal retailers that do not employ pharmacists.

To realize a convenient and safe online system of drug sales, the private and public sectors should rack their brains together.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2013)
(2013年1月14日01時27分  読売新聞)

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成人の日 若い力で停滞を打ち破ろう

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 15, 2013)
Let the power of youth snap Japan out of its funk
成人の日 若い力で停滞を打ち破ろう(1月14日付・読売社説)

Today, the second Monday of January, is Coming-of-Age Day. We congratulate about 1.22 million people who were born in 1992 and turned 20 years old this year to become new members of adult society.

They are of the generation who has grown up during the "two lost decades" that followed the bursting of the bubble economy.

During this period, Japan's economy has languished, and its gross domestic product has been overtaken by that of China. Japan has surrendered its position as the world's second-biggest economy.

While the proportion of students going on to university remains above 50 percent, the employment situation is still grim. This is a period when young people are struggling to stay optimistic about their prospects.

But precisely because this is a tough situation, we have high expectations for the power of youth. We hope new adults who have already started their careers and those yet to join the workforce will work and study hard with pride that they are "vital" members of society.


Mostly satisfied with life

In a 2012 survey by the Cabinet Office, as many as 75 percent of people in their 20s-- those slightly older than the new batch of adults--said they were "satisfied" with their current lifestyle. This figure was the highest of all age brackets.

Sociologist Noritoshi Furuichi, author of the book "Zetsubo no Kuni no Kofukuna Wakamono-tachi" (The Happy Youth of a Desperate Country), believes the survey results indicated that people of this age "have little expectation that things will get better tomorrow, so they focus on spending joyful times with their peers here and now."

Possibly reflecting their sense of despair over the future, an increasing number of young people are seeking jobs that offer employment stability. According to a survey in 2012 by Japan Productivity Center, a government-backed think tank, 60 percent of newly recruited employees--an all-time high--said they "want to work at my current company for life."

Nevertheless, large firms cannot necessarily guarantee employment for life. Symbolic of this is the fact that many major home appliance manufacturers are groaning under huge deficits. Their quandary has been caused by such factors as intense international competition and their failure to keep up with foreign rivals in developing business strategies well suited to fast-changing market conditions.

Many companies in the home appliance industry and other sectors have been doing their utmost to survive by exercising their ingenuity in boosting their technological capabilities and improving their services.


Harnessing the Internet

The day will come when today's new adults take up the role of reinvigorating their companies and society.

One promising sign is that a number of young people have been actively starting businesses on their own. Many have designed new products on their websites, sent orders to production service firms to make them, and marketed the products on the Internet. This way of doing business, which originated in the United States, is spreading in Japan.

Since their childhood, new adults have been accustomed to using cell phones and personal computers. We hope they come up with flexible ideas unbound by conventional thinking.

All the residents of Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, have had to evacuate due to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. On Jan. 2, the village government hosted a Coming-of-Age Day celebration in the district where the residents have moved.

At the ceremony, a new male adult spoke of his determination to work hard in the future. "I'll do my best to give other victims of the disaster hope for the future, and never forget the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe and the preciousness of my hometown."

We sincerely hope each new adult, while cherishing their own dreams and hopes, has the courage to carve out a new era.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2013)
(2013年1月14日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月14日 (月)

中国紙記者スト 言論は統制強化で抑え込めぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 14, 2013)
China should relax government control of media
中国紙記者スト 言論は統制強化で抑え込めぬ(1月13日付・読売社説)

It has become clear that China's new leadership headed by Xi Jinping intends to tighten government control over Chinese media.

The New Year's editorial of the Southern Weekend, a weekly newspaper in Guangdong Province that is highly popular for its aggressive investigative reporting of corruption and other irregularities, was replaced at the order of the propaganda department of the Communist Party Committee of the province. The editorial writers of the Southern Weekend, also known as the Southern Weekly, went on strike to protest the action.

Management of the Southern Weekend and the editorial writers subsequently held negotiations over the matter, with the province's Communist Party Committee acting as arbitrator.
The issue was settled with the editorial writers agreeing to stop the walkout and the weekly's management agreeing not to punish them. It could be inferred that the way the problem was settled represented a concession on the part of the Xi administration, which is wary about expansion of democracy movements.

However, on the heels of the incident, the Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department instructed media across the country to republish an editorial of the party's mouthpiece People's Daily that warned that any media that publicly criticized the government would be "certainly defeated."


Action counters Constitution

The Chinese government probably considered it essential to toughen its control over the freedom of speech in order to maintain the Communist Party's dictatorial rule.

The weekly's editorial that instigated the latest incident was titled "China's Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism" and published on Jan. 3.

The editorial urged Chinese leaders to uphold the importance of steering the government democratically based on China's Constitution. The party must have regarded the editorial as tantamount to rejecting the Communist Party's dictatorship, and the weekly was ordered to replace it with another.

China's Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. The reality, however, is that the party's propaganda department has the power to reassign media personnel, a power it wields extrajudicially.

Interference in the content of articles has become an everyday event, but open challenges to the authority of the propaganda department are extremely rare.

In this case, maybe the editorial writers were testing the attitude of the newly inaugurated Xi administration toward the media.

When the incident was reported on the Internet, more than 150 former media employees posted protest letters online, and human rights activists and scholars released protest statements one after another.


Accept changes in society

An influential newspaper in Beijing also resisted the propaganda department, temporarily refusing to republish the editorial of the People's Daily.

Given that the number of people using the Internet in China has surpassed 500 million, it must already be very hard for Beijing to suppress voices calling for the freedom of speech by means of conventional iron-fisted oppression.

Meanwhile, income disparities in China have become increasingly egregious, and dissatisfaction among ordinary people has neared a breaking point.

Apart from this problem, easing media control is indispensable to clamping down on corruption by high-ranking party officials.

The United States has expressed its concern over the Chinese authorities' censorship of the Southern Weekend.

The Xi administration should be aware that the suppression of freedom of speech has marred China's image as the world's second-largest economic powerhouse.

If the Chinese authorities want social stability, they must respond sincerely to the rapid diversification in society that comes with the globalization of the economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2013)
(2013年1月13日01時41分  読売新聞)

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東京五輪招致 日本の総合力で実現したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 14, 2013)
Japan must unite behind Tokyo's Olympic bid
東京五輪招致 日本の総合力で実現したい(1月13日付・読売社説)

We strongly hope Tokyo will win the international battle to host the 2020 Summer Olympics so it can hold its second Games.

Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid, the three cities vying for the right to host the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020, submitted their candidate files, which detail plans to organize the world's biggest sporting event, to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne on Jan. 7.

The IOC has officially lifted the ban on international publicity activities for the candidate cities. The host city will be chosen at the IOC's general meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7. The three cities will intensify their activities to win the support of IOC members with voting rights.

On Thursday, just three days after Tokyo submitted its candidate file, Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose held a press conference for the international media in London, which successfully held the Summer Olympics last year.
"The Tokyo Olympics will be a dynamic event held at the center of the safest and most advanced city in the world," Inose told the press.


Games will revitalize nation

According to estimates, a total of 7.8 million spectators from inside and outside Japan will visit Tokyo if it hosts the Olympics and the event's economic ripple effect for the country will be 3 trillion yen. The Olympics certainly will provide a spark for Japan to regain its vitality.

We expect not only the Tokyo metropolitan government but also the central government, Japan's national Olympic committee and others to work hard together to bring the Games to Tokyo.

For Tokyo, which hosted its first Olympics in 1964, this is the second straight bid for the Olympics after failing to win the 2016 Games.

Like the last bid, the highlight of Tokyo's organizing plan is a "compact Olympics," with most of the venues for major events within an eight-kilometer radius of the Olympic village. The National Stadium, the main venue, will be drastically renovated so it can accommodate 80,000 spectators.

Compared to the previous plan, some details of the 2020 plan have been improved, such as expansion of the Olympic village.

However, Istanbul, which aims to be the first Islamic country to host the Olympics, and Madrid, a major European city, are both strong rivals. Tokyo will not have an easy task to win the Games.


Advantages over rivals

But Tokyo's rivals have weak points, too. The development of urban infrastructure has been delayed in Istanbul, and Madrid has financial problems resulting from Spain's economic crisis.

Tokyo has strong advantages, including an advanced transportation network, a large number of accommodation facilities and financial stability, such as 400 billion yen in reserve funds. It is important for Tokyo to emphasize these advantages effectively.

According to the results of a survey, however, public support to host the Olympics is lower in Tokyo than in its two rivals.

Even so, 500,000 people gathered in Tokyo's Ginza district to cheer the Japanese medalists during a parade held after the London Olympics. The whole of Japan was in a frenzy of excitement over the performance of Japanese athletes last summer.

Tokyo's bid committee has to show the IOC that the Japanese public is very interested in having the nation's capital host the Olympics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2013)
(2013年1月13日01時41分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月13日 (日)

安倍・橋下会談 政権安定化への布石となるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 13, 2013)
Abe meets Hashimoto in quest for stable government
安倍・橋下会談 政権安定化への布石となるか(1月12日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to be preparing carefully for the upcoming ordinary Diet session.

Abe visited Osaka on Friday to have talks with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who is acting president of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, secretary general of Ishin no Kai, for the first time since his Cabinet was inaugurated.

Referring to emergency economic measures, the prime minister asked them to help pass the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget in the Diet as soon as possible, while the two asked Abe to realize drastic structural reform including deregulation in medical fields.

This exchange of opinions is unusual because the prime minister has not yet held official talks with Banri Kaieda, president of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Abe was exchanging opinions with Hashimoto even before he was elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party last autumn, showing his willingness to join hands with him on issues of national politics such as revision of the Constitution. The latest meeting is apparently the first step toward realizing their alliance.

Abe will face many important issues in the ordinary Diet session to be convened at the end of this month, including the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget and the fiscal 2013 budget.


Partnership with opposition

Under the Abe administration, the ruling parties hold more than two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives. However, they have less than half in the House of Councillors. The prime minister will have to seek a "partial alliance" or temporary partnerships on a policy-by-policy basis with opposition parties if he wants to pass important bills without being criticized for managing the Diet high-handedly.

Whether it can win support from Ishin no Kai, Your Party, New Renaissance Party and other smaller opposition parties will be particularly important for the government to succeed in appointing a new governor for the Bank of Japan, which requires the approval of both chambers, if it fails to gain the cooperation of the DPJ.

After talking with Abe, Hashimoto expressed again his party's position of deciding whether to support the government's policies based on their individual merit.
"We will not become an opposition party that disagrees with everything," Hashimoto told the press. "We'll discuss every policy carefully and agree on what we can agree on."


Ishin in eye of storm

In the past, opposition parties tended to refuse deliberation on bills or needlessly drag them out. We expect them to show different reactions this time. The government and the ruling parties could make concessions on quite a few issues with Ishin no Kai.

In the lower house, Ishin no Kai has 54 seats and is the second largest opposition party. But, the difference between it and the main opposition DPJ is only two seats. Movements by Ishin no Kai certainly will have some effect on the behavior of the ruling parties and the other opposition parties in the Diet.

Meanwhile, another apparent aim of Abe in his meeting with Hashimoto was to drive a wedge into talks started among opposition parties on forming a coalition for the upper house election scheduled in July.

The DPJ is seeking election cooperation with the other opposition parties in efforts to prevent the LDP and New Komeito from winning a majority of seats in the upper house election. However, Ishin no Kai and Your Party have expressed skepticism about it because their policies are quite different from those of the DPJ, which is supported by the Japan Teachers' Union and other labor unions.

Meanwhile, the DPJ has finally started intraparty discussions on rebuilding the party from its crushing defeat in the last lower house election. How will it respond to the prime minister's preemptive attack on the main opposition party? The DPJ's strategy for that remains to be seen.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2013)
(2013年1月12日01時32分  読売新聞)

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緊急経済対策 「強い日本」取り戻す第一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 13, 2013)
Stimulus package expected to be 1st step in restoring Japan
緊急経済対策 「強い日本」取り戻す第一歩に(1月12日付・読売社説)

The emergency stimulus package approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday is the first step in "Abenomics," which aims to spur growth and pull the nation's economy out of its period of prolonged deflation. The government must boost recovery efforts by implementing the planned measures swiftly.

The Abe administration has endorsed the urgent economic package of projects worth more than 20 trillion yen, which will be undertaken by central and local governments.

The administration will draw about 10 trillion yen from state coffers for the stimulus, which takes a three-pronged approach consisting of reconstruction and disaster management, creation of wealth through economic growth, and ensuring the happy livelihood of the public and the revitalization of regional areas. The package is intended to boost the nation's gross domestic product by 2 percent in real terms and create 600,000 jobs.

A draft supplementary budget for fiscal 2012, which will finance the economic measures, totals about 13 trillion yen, coming close to the size of the first extra budget for fiscal 2009 formulated by the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Taro Aso to counter a recession following the "Lehman shock."

At a press conference Friday, Abe said the government would shift from a policy of redistributing wealth amid economic contraction to a favorable cycle of growth and wealth.

We urge the government to take quick action to pass the extra budget early and bring about a robust economy.


Excessive focus on public works

We highly regard the Abe administration's stance, shown in the stimulus package, to push for companies' growth through such measures as promoting investment in the private sector.

However, the package as a whole appears to rely on public works projects seeking to immediately buoy the economy. The state spending on public works projects that the government plans to include in the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget amounts to about 5 trillion yen, exceeding that for the year's initial budget.

Only a one-time effect can be expected from a stimulus package centering on public works projects. In light of this, concerns linger over the extent to which Abe's stimulus will shore up the economy and boost employment.

The government also needs to speed up working out a comprehensive strategy to achieve sustainable growth. It is also essential for the government and the Bank of Japan to join hands to carry out bold monetary easing.

Striking a balance between driving growth and rehabilitating public finances must be a key aspect of such efforts.

As a result of high government spending, the issuance of government bonds for fiscal 2012, including both the initial and extra budgets, is expected to be about 50 trillion yen. This figure is significantly higher than the annual cap of 44 trillion yen set under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government to maintain fiscal discipline.


Fiscal health must be improved

To raise the consumption tax rate in April 2014 as scheduled, steady economic recovery is needed. It is thus inevitable for the government to focus on stimulus efforts with aggressive spending for the time being.

Nevertheless, it is important to prevent lavish spending and reduce expenditures, given that the nation' fiscal health is the worst among major industrial countries. Questions have also been raised over the Abe administration's apparent move to revive public works projects that were cut drastically by the DPJ-led government.

The Abe administration must not allow a fiscal 2013 budget to finance public works projects with low investment efficiency in the name of disaster-management measures.

The government should set specific goals to improve its fiscal health and quickly work on medium- and long-term measures to achieve sound public finances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2013)
(2013年1月12日01時32分  読売新聞)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 9
EDITORIAL: Pro-Pyongyang schools should be included in tuition waiver program

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to exclude high schools affiliated with North Korea from eligibility for a program that provides free high school education.

No school should be excluded from the tuition waiver program given that its principal objective is to create a society where all children are given access to high school-level education, regardless of the economic conditions of their families.

In explaining the government's decision, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said it is difficult to win public support for making North Korean high schools eligible for the program. Shimomura cited two main reasons: the influence of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) on the curricula at these schools and the lack of progress in Japan’s talks with North Korea over the issue of Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese citizens.

Indeed, there is a strong distrust of North Korea among Japanese not only because of the abduction issue, but also because of Pyongyang’s effective test launch of a ballistic missile in December, the latest of the isolated country’s provocative acts related to its arms programs.

The education policies and programs at North Korean schools have also aroused public suspicions. It is unacceptable if these schools are trying to educate students, in classrooms hung with portraits of North Korean leaders, to be supporters of the dictatorship in Pyongyang.

But the tuition waiver program is designed to benefit individual students, not schools. Many of the students at North Korean high schools in Japan go on to Japanese universities upon graduation. They are children who will grow up to become legitimate members of Japanese society.

The government should keep trying to make sure that these students will learn about the basic values of Japanese and international society while at the same time guaranteeing that they will be given access to education.

The education ministry has been saying that it will draw up a list of "points to note" that these schools will be required to keep in mind if they are made eligible for the tuition waiver program. The ministry has promised to urge them to make voluntary efforts to improve their curricula, such as adding Japanese textbooks on politics and economy to their teaching materials.

It will be more beneficial for society if the ministry opts to exhort these schools to take such steps to improve their education while making them entitled to the tuition waiver.

In 2011, when Kanagawa Prefecture provided prefectural subsidies to North Korean schools within its boundaries, it also raised questions about some elements of what and how students learn at these schools, such as textbook descriptions of the abduction issue and the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air jetliner by North Korean agents.

As a result, the descriptions in question have been revised partially, if not sufficiently.

Additionally, a documentary film about the abduction of Megumi Yokota, who has become a symbol of the tragedies, has been shown in classes to teach students about the abduction issue.

These improvements have been made because the prefectural government has maintained a channel to seek positive action from these schools.

The proposed procedure for excluding North Korean schools from the tuition waiver program is also questionable.

Foreign schools are able to apply to the program according to rules laid down by an education ministry ordinance. The government now plans to delete only the provision in the ordinance that makes pro-Pyongyang schools eligible to be screened for the program.

These schools applied for the program according to the provision more than two years ago.

The government has been postponing the screening of the applications and is now planning to abolish the provision itself to reject the applications without screening. This is an unfair and unreasonable way to deal with the matter.

Even if it considers changing the rules, the ministry should first complete the screening of the applications submitted by these schools and announce the results.

A government that is demanding education in line with the values of a democratic society should not make any move that arouses doubts about the fairness of its procedures.

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2013年1月12日 (土)

大阪体罰自殺 教師による犯罪ではないのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 12, 2013)
Physical punishment of students must never be allowed in schools
大阪体罰自殺 教師による犯罪ではないのか(1月11日付・読売社説)

A place of education has been desecrated by an incident that should never have occurred.

A second-year student of an Osaka municipal high school committed suicide a day after he was given corporal punishment by a male teacher who is the head coach of the school's basketball club, to which the student belonged.

A letter he left for the teacher says, "[The teacher's] physical punishments are too painful." The Osaka City Board of Education currently sees the corporal punishments as the main factor behind the boy's suicide. The police have started an investigation into the matter. The truth must be thoroughly uncovered.

According to the city's board of education, the teacher had punished the boy by slapping him in the face when he made mistakes in basketball games. On the day before his suicide, the boy reportedly told his mother: "I was slapped 30 to 40 times."


Inexcusable violent acts

The teacher explained himself to the education board by saying, for example, that he was trying to "motivate" the boy. However, such clearly violent acts go beyond coaching students, and should not be allowed for any reason.

The School Education Law clearly prohibits physical punishment. Instruction through violence cannot foster a normal sense of ethics in children. To the contrary, it may implant fearful emotions or a rebellious spirit in children's minds.

After the student's suicide, the high school took a survey of 50 members of the basketball club, to which 21 students replied they were also given physical punishments. This fact raises the suspicion that the teacher had regularly given corporal punishments. The supervisory responsibility of the school's principal and other teachers superior to the teacher involved must also be strictly questioned.

Information on physical punishment by this teacher was given to the Osaka municipal government two years ago. Despite this, the school only interviewed the teacher and did not ask students in the club about the punishments. The school concluded there was no corporal punishment. The city's board of education accepted a report by the school at face value.

These responses were quite sloppy. If a more in-depth investigation had been conducted at that time, the recent tragedy could have been avoided. It was quite natural for Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to have remarked, "This is the worst catastrophe for a place of education."


Not the 1st case

At the same municipal high school, nationally known for its powerful sports teams, a case of physical punishment by another male teacher, a volleyball club coach, was revealed previously. The teacher was disciplined with a three-month suspension from work.

There might have been a tendency at the school to allow physical punishments in the name of winning-is-the-only-thing coaching.

Every year about 400 teachers and other education-related personnel at public primary, middle and high schools are disciplined nationwide for giving physical punishments. The number has shown no tendency to decline.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry must once again thoroughly instruct schools to enforce the prohibition on physical punishments.

At schools, cases of students using violence against teachers are a timeless problem. There are surely occasions when teachers must be stern in their dealings with students.

Yet teachers must recognize afresh that corporal punishments, which inflict physical pain on students, should never be allowed under any circumstances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2013)
(2013年1月11日01時20分  読売新聞)

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安保政策見直し 「動的防衛力」構想は推進せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 12, 2013)
Abe Cabinet must promote 'dynamic defense' concept
安保政策見直し 「動的防衛力」構想は推進せよ(1月11日付・読売社説)

Improving and expanding the Self-Defense Forces' equipment and structure is an urgent task, but it should be remembered that this must be done based on the principle of "choice and concentration," which calls for choosing a field of priority and concentrating on it.

The Abe Cabinet has set forth a policy of reexamining the National Defense Program Guidelines and the five-year defense buildup program for fiscal 2011 to 2015, which were formulated by the government under the Democratic Party of Japan. The Abe administration aims to work out new defense guidelines and a midterm defense program by the end of this year.

In view of repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters and airspace by Chinese government-operated ships and aircraft, the Abe administration will try to bolster Japan's defense capabilities.

Security conditions surrounding Japan have become increasingly tense, as China has been rapidly strengthening and modernizing its military and expanding its maritime activities while North Korea has been promoting nuclear development programs and fired a ballistic missile last month.

In addition to China and North Korea, the United States and Japan's neighboring nations such as South Korea and Russia have been increasing their defense spending. Japan's defense budget, on the other hand, declined for 10 consecutive years. It is laudable that the Abe administration is trying to reverse the trend. It is urgent to correct the present situation, in which Japan cannot afford to repair the ships and aircraft it needs for its defense.


Boost surveillance capability

It is crucial to bolster the defense system in southwestern Japan, including the Senkaku Islands. The surveillance activities of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force must be upgraded both qualitatively and quantitatively. The number of SDF ships and aircraft has been reduced considerably since the end of the Cold War. It is essential to halt and reverse this trend.

In addition to the U.S. high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft Global Hawk, which has superior intelligence-gathering capabilities, we suggest that the government consider acquiring the new U.S. transport aircraft Osprey, some of which were deployed last year by the U.S. military in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Osprey's high transport capacity and extensive operational capabilities are said to be well suited to the defense of remote islands, such as the Nansei Islands.

It will be vital to strengthen ties between the SDF and the U.S. military by reviewing the Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines as well as to establish a Japanese version of the National Security Council that will serve as the control tower of diplomacy and security policy. These are top-priority challenges.


Setting spending priorities

Given the nation's dire fiscal straits, however, the defense budget cannot be allowed to grow limitlessly. While setting priority orders for spending, it will be required to steadily carry out such measures as cutting the number of Ground Self-Defense Force personnel, abolishing and consolidating SDF facilities and enhancing efficiency in equipment procurement.

The government and the Liberal Democratic Party are reviewing the concept of the "dynamic defense capability" that is the core of the current National Defense Program Guidelines. This review must be called into question.

The dynamic defense capability represents a concept of national security that attaches importance to capabilities to deal with various situations and the display of deterrent power by engaging defense force units in such activities as warning and surveillance operations and training. Designed to replace the previous concept of "fundamental defense" that regards the possession of equipment and the existence of defense personnel as a deterrent, the concept of dynamic defense capability sets the right direction.

Highly appreciating the dynamic defense concept, the United States has been proceeding with "dynamic defense cooperation" with Japan by conducting joint warning and surveillance operations and training.

If the Abe Cabinet considers a review of the dynamic defense concept just because it was a brainchild of the DPJ-led administration, it would be an instance of facile thinking.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2013)
(2013年1月11日01時20分  読売新聞)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 11
EDITORIAL: LDP remains unchanged in its return to power

We cannot help thinking that the Liberal Democratic Party has not changed.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided the outline of a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012, which ends in March 2013.

The total government expenditure in the budget is slightly more than 13 trillion yen ($146 billion), which is close to the record high of 14.7 trillion yen set by the supplementary budget compiled in spring 2009 by the administration of then-Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Excluding planned government expenditures for the basic pension programs from the 13 trillion yen, the remaining 10 trillion yen will be used for "emergency economic measures." Of that amount, half will be spent on public works projects. The funds for those public works will be covered with the issuance of government bonds. As a result, the total amount of government bonds issued in fiscal 2012, including that of the initial budget for that year, is expected to come close to 50 trillion yen.

At present, the government’s total debts stand at around 1,000 trillion yen. In such a situation, the Abe administration is emphasizing that its fiscal policies will first realize economic growth to increase tax revenues. “We will deal with the (serious fiscal) situation flexibly in the short term and with discipline in the mid- to long term,” he says.

We are not going to deny such thinking completely. However, we get the impression that the Liberal Democratic Party is going on a spending spree out of elation that it was able to take back the reins of the government.

Under names such as “reconstruction and disaster prevention” and “establishment of safe living conditions and revitalization of local communities,” the amount of public works projects in the supplementary budget was increased to a level comparable to that of an annual budget. Since there is no way the entire amount can be spent within fiscal 2012, the budget is virtually reserved for fiscal 2013 and beyond.

In the area of defense, the cost for purchasing missiles from abroad is positioned as part of the economic measures on grounds that Japanese companies are involved in their production process.

Those “unreasonable” expenditures were approved because the LDP had first decided that the amount for the economic measures should be as large as 10 trillion yen.

The decision reminds us of the supplementary budgets compiled in the autumn of 2011 in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and in the spring of 2009 to stimulate the economy.

The LDP and New Komeito, both of which were opposition parties at the time, had much to do with the compilation of the post-quake supplementary budget. But far-fetched “piggyback” expenditures not directly related to the recovery of stricken areas became prevalent.

The supplementary budget of spring 2009, decided under the Aso administration in response to a sudden economic slowdown caused by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008, also put priority on the total budget amount. In fact, it was so lavish that it eventually led the Board of Audit to point out various wasteful expenditures.

In the Dec. 16 Lower House election, the LDP advocated “the strengthening of the national land” as a mainstay of its election pledges. Now, the LDP headquarters is busy dealing with officials of industry associations who are flocking there with petitions. Is this large-scale supplementary budget a gift of gratitude to them for supporting the LDP in the Lower House election and also a means to obtain their support in the Upper House election slated for summer 2013?

The big supplementary budget was also compiled to boost the economy in the first half of fiscal 2013 as economic growth in that period is believed to be necessary to make the final decision in the autumn of this year on the consumption tax hike scheduled for spring 2014.

If even the Finance Ministry--which is supposed to play a leading role in reducing the government's debts--is falling into step with plans to increase spending in order to be able to raise the consumption tax, the situation is truly deplorable.

In the beginning of this year, an income tax increase started for the advancement of post-quake reconstruction activities. Going forward, consumers will be required to shoulder heavier financial burdens one after another, including a consumption tax hike.

In such a situation, taxpayers are sure to raise objections if the government keeps compiling such generous budgets.

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2013年1月11日 (金)




You may be in Thailand if...

Published: 28/12/2012 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News 

This week, Bangkok Post's guest columnist Songkran Grachangnetara wrote about "11 simple ways to tell if you're really Thai", his follow-up piece to "How to Tell Whether You're a Farang".

His articles prompted me to share my own take on a similar subject: how to know if you are in Thailand.

You know you're in Thailand when a cabinet minister is so confident in the security of his cabinet post that he'll tell you to your face that he is "a liar" and will lose no sleep over it.

You know you're in Thailand when the colours you wear are of utmost importance. Don't be caught wearing the wrong colour at a certain gathering, or you could risk offending others.

You know you're in Thailand if you are driving and encounter this warning sign: "Drive carefully. You have entered an area where traffic law is strictly enforced." What does that say then about other areas?

You know you're in Thailand when you see pedestrians crossing the road beneath a flyover even though motorists feel no need to halt for you at zebra-crossings. A good, kind-hearted motorist who does stop suffers impatient honks from trailing motorists who can't be bothered to wait a moment. And take note, this happens in the areas of "strict enforcement of traffic rules".

Only in Thailand are pedestrians forced to walk on the roads with the motorists because the pavements are jammed full of vendors with their goods.

You know you're in Thailand when you encounter a traffic-rule violator - say, one who parks in a non-parking zone - but when you notify a nearby police officer he plainly tells you, "Sorry. Not my jurisdiction".

Only in Thailand do bandits, when hunting for victims, disguise themselves as police officers.

You know you're in Thailand when road signs leading you to your destination suddenly disappear when you're only halfway there.

You know you're in Thailand when road works suddenly appear in front of you without any prior warnings whatsoever. And by that time, you are frustratingly trapped in traffic amid hundreds of other motorists scrambling for limited road surface. The same problem exists for utility work sites like water and electricity. Would it hurt to put up a sign?

You know you're in Thailand when all the motorists around speed up to outrun an approaching train even though the warning lights at the cross-junction are blinking.

You know you're in Thailand if a movie star's car is stolen but is found by police shortly thereafter. Good luck to anyone else who hopes to get a stolen car back.

Only in Thailand do restaurant and food shop operators post notices claiming their food is "safe and hygienic" and will not harm you.

Trust me, the signs don't prove anything.

I am sure few, if any, food shop owners, know what san (substances) they are protecting you from. But what choice do you have?

The signs show that no one really cares about taste and authenticity - the main selling point restaurants across the world use to attract would-be patrons.

You know you're in Thailand if a taxi driver refuses to take you somewhere because it's either "too near" or "too far".

You know you're in Thailand if a temple near your house promotes its activities by turning its speakers up to the highest volume at six in the morning. The same goes for vendors on pickup trucks who also feel free to blast their speakers, ruining your peace on the weekend.

You know you're in Thailand if your neighbours do not think it is necessary to respect your rights by keeping quiet at night, or see no problem in letting their pet dogs use your front gate as a toilet.

You know you're in Thailand when you are not allowed to buy a bottle of beer or wine for the sole reason that its either between 2-5pm or after midnight. Yet, it's perfectly acceptable to buy a dozen bottles or more during that restricted time. But since this is Thailand, and despite all these things, it's still the best place to live in the world.

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iPS研究 再生医療実用化へ支援充実を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 11, 2013)
Provide more govt support for practical use of iPS cells
iPS研究 再生医療実用化へ支援充実を(1月10日付・読売社説)

The ultimate goal of medicine is to completely heal disease and injuries. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can be grown into different body cells, could become a pivotal technology that helps achieve this goal.

The functions of organs needing treatment could be restored if iPS cells made from the patient's skin cells are grown into those of the organs and then implanted in the patient's own body. Patients would have no risk of rejecting the organ because the injected cells are from their body. We hope such treatment--which once seemed like the stuff of dreams--will be put into practical use.

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the creator of iPS cells, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last year. Japan is among the leading nations in the basic research of regenerative medicine.

The government's recent announcement that it will help beef up iPS research must be music to the ears of many patients. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has revised its road map on iPS cell research and development, moving up the previous schedule and now aiming to establish treatment methods for patients with nerve damage within five years, among other targets.


Fierce competition

A supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March, which the government will endorse next week, is expected to feature measures for improving research facilities and supporting studies by universities and companies. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has reportedly been examining how it can help develop related industries.

International competition to put iPS technology into practical use is fierce. The United States, which regards iPS cells as a priority field in bioscience research, allocates a huge budget for research and development in this area. In European nations, the business and academic sectors have been rapidly accelerating their joint projects. Japan must not be left behind in this race. It should revitalize its medical industry by putting innovative medical technology into practical use.

Massive investments are needed for research and development of medical science and treatments. It is vital for the government to provide continuing support to these fields as researchers inevitably go through failures before achieving success and putting their studies to practical use. A framework also should be established promptly to encourage companies and universities to take on bold challenges in these fields.


Cancer fears

Some observers have voiced fears about the safety of iPS cells, saying they might turn cancerous when used for treatment. However, there are signs this concern could be resolved, as Yamanaka and other researchers have developed technology to eliminate factors that could turn iPS cells cancerous.

The Riken national research institute will start clinical research on retinal treatment using iPS cells by the end of this year, which will be the nation's first clinical application involving such cells. Kyoto University, meanwhile, plans to create a bank to stock frozen iPS cells made from cells from a number of people. We hope these institutions will speed up their research.

The biggest issue is surely how clinical research--which is conducted to ensure a treatment under development is safe and effective--can be streamlined. Japan's clinical research system has been criticized for taking far longer to approve research results than those of other countries.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry should knuckle down to the task of improving the clinical research system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2013)
(2013年1月10日01時21分  読売新聞)

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諮問会議復活 政府と日銀の協調深める場に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 11, 2013)
Govt, BOJ should work together on reactivated panel
諮問会議復活 政府と日銀の協調深める場に(1月10日付・読売社説)

To conquer deflation and rejuvenate Japan's economy, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must make full use of a government panel it recently reactivated as a "control tower" for economic policies. Producing steady results is essential.

The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy resumed operations Wednesday after being dormant for about 3-1/2 years. The panel is chaired by Abe, and its members include key Cabinet ministers such as Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, and Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa. Four members were appointed from the private sector, including Toshiba Corp. President Norio Sasaki.

Administrations led by the Democratic Party of Japan had virtually suspended the panel, and instead the party established the Council on National Strategy and Policy. However, as the administrations' economic and financial policies vacillated, this council failed to produce sufficient results.

We believe the Abe administration was right to reactivate the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy to rebuild the economic and financial policymaking mechanism, which will be implemented with help from the private sector.


Following Koizumi's footsteps

During the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the panel was used to promote economic and fiscal policies under the initiative of the Prime Minister's Office. Like Koizumi, Abe probably aims to rebuild a strong economy by giving the panel the role of a "control tower" on economic policy.

Panel members will discuss macroeconomic policies, such as fiscal management. The panel's first task will be to draw up basic policies for economic and fiscal management and structural reform by around June, which will set the Abe administration's basic course on such issues for the medium and long term.

To boost the flagging economy, the administration plans to implement emergency economic measures that involve massive fiscal spending. However, if the administration fails to maintain fiscal discipline at the same time, concern about a further deterioration of Japan's fiscal condition may grow.

We want the council to draw up scenarios for rebuilding the nation's finances, under the goal of attaining economic growth while restoring fiscal health.

It is noteworthy that the panel will provide opportunities for Abe and Shirakawa to exchange their opinions periodically.

Abe has been asking the central bank to implement bold monetary easing measures, such as setting an inflation target of raising consumer prices by 2 percent annually. The prime minister also asked the bank to conclude a policy accord with the government that includes achieving this target.

At a panel meeting Wednesday, Abe asked Shirakawa to implement monetary policies that "sufficiently reflect" such requests. "I'm eager to further deepen cooperation between the government and the central bank," Abe said. Shirakawa said the bank has "already been working enthusiastically" on monetary easing. "We will continue such efforts," the governor added.


All eyes on bank meeting

It seems this meeting marked the first step in efforts by the government and the central bank to deepen their cooperation to defeat persistent deflation.

Based on Wednesday's discussions, we expect the central bank to announce additional measures on monetary easing, in collaboration with the government, at the bank's Policy Board meeting to be held Jan. 21 and 22.

According to the government, the panel will play a complementary role with the recently established Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization, which will discuss microeconomic policies. The government plans to establish a council under the headquarters that will be tasked with boosting the nation's industrial competitiveness. The council will draw up industrial policies, such as a growth strategy.

It will be crucial for the administration to promote smooth, steady cooperation between the headquarters and the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and break the shackles of sectionalism in government ministries. Abe and Amari should exercise strong leadership to quickly implement practical and effective economic policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2013)
(2013年1月10日01時21分  読売新聞)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 10
EDITORIAL: China cannot keep suppressing calls for freedom of speech

In China, where the Communist Party maintains an outright monopoly of power, a newspaper’s recent fight with the authorities over censorship has set off a growing chorus of calls for freedom of speech.

The greatest of tributes should be made to the journalistic integrity of the paper’s editors and reporters who have voiced protests despite the threat of punishment, and to the courage of citizens who have expressed their support for the journalists. The Chinese government’s attempt to crack down on the protest deserves to be strongly criticized. Beijing should realize that it cannot silence voices for freedom through oppression.

The censorship dispute broke out after an article in a New Year's special edition of the Southern Weekly, a newspaper based in Guangdong province, was rewritten in response to an order by the local propaganda authorities without the knowledge of many reporters on the paper.

Angry reporters published the original article on the Internet and criticized the authorities. A wave of support for the newspaper’s editorial staff arose and spread across the country.

Expressions of support have not been limited to posts on the Internet. A large number of citizens gathered in front of the headquarters of the newspaper to protest the propaganda authorities' action in a rare display of public anger in a country where demonstrations are strictly controlled.

Other media have also expressed their solidarity with the protesters. At the Beijing News, journalists resisted an order from the propaganda authorities to print an editorial carried in a different paper.

In China, news media are seen as the mouthpiece of the party and the government. The authority’s intervention in editorial content has long been the norm. Even so, the latest move by the propaganda authorities to rewrite the Guangdong paper’s content apparently went beyond the limit of journalistic tolerance.

The Communist Party’s Propaganda Department has started taking steps to tighten its grip on the media, claiming that hostile foreign forces are involved in the campaign for media independence. There have been reports that activists supporting the Southern Weekly have been detained on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”

The gap between rich and poor has been widening rapidly in the country’s economic development, creating a growing sense of inequality among citizens. The Communist Party fears that its power base could be undermined unless it keeps a tight control on the press.

Even if its efforts to keep a tight rein on the media prove effective in the short term, the government will not be able to suppress the growth of public demand for freedom of speech for long periods as the amount of information available to the people keeps exploding due to the development of the Internet.

Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping visited Guangdong province in December, immediately after taking office, and announced his intention to promote reforms and an open-door policy. Xi has also called for efforts to change the party’s culture, such as avoiding excessive wining and dining and making meetings simpler.

The Southern Weekly’s original article before it was rewritten was headlined, “China’s dream, the dream of constitutional rule.”
 「中国の夢 憲政の夢」。それが、南方週末の書き換え前の記事の題だった。

The opinion piece was apparently regarded by the propaganda authorities as a criticism of the political and social reality of the country, where the law often tends to be ignored amid arbitrary rule by men in power. But Xi has stressed the importance of respecting China's Constitution.

The latest conflict is shaping up as a litmus test of whether Xi is really serious about his calls for change to secure the long-term political viability of the party or if he is only paying lip service to the cause.

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2013年1月10日 (木)

エジプト混迷 分裂を回避して経済再建を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 10, 2013)
Morsi must unite Egypt, rehabilitate economy
エジプト混迷 分裂を回避して経済再建を(1月9日付・読売社説)

Can Egypt promote democratization under its new Constitution and end the country's economic crisis? The great Middle East power is walking a tightrope as it works to rehabilitate itself.

The country's new Constitution was enforced after winning the approval of 64 percent of voters in a two-stage national referendum held late last year.

The new Constitution was established under the initiative of President Mohamed Morsi, who was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The democratization process--launched after the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring movement and a brief period of military rule--has entered a new dimension.

Regrettably, however, the voter turnout in the referendum stood at a low 33 percent. So it cannot be said that the new Constitution was supported by a wide range of people.

The new Constitution limits the president to no more than two terms of four years each to forestall autocratic rule. There were no restrictions under the old constitution.


Secular-Islamist rift widens

Secular and liberal elements have protested vigorously against the new Constitution as it strongly emphasizes Islamic values, such as prohibiting "insults to the Prophet Mohammed." There have been deaths in clashes with Islamist forces during demonstrations.

It is lamentable that the rift between Islamism and secularism has widened over the establishment of the new Constitution, which was expected to promote national integration.

Morsi must apply the Constitution carefully to prevent the confrontation from worsening. It is vitally important to smoothly hold a lower house election scheduled for the first half of this year under the new Constitution.

Another important task for the Morsi administration is economic reconstruction.

The turmoil that followed the regime change seriously damaged the country's key tourism industry and slowed foreign investment. Foreign exchange reserves dropped sharply as the external balance of payments deteriorated.


Fix fiscal mess

In an effort to avert a default on debts, the Morsi administration has concluded a basic agreement with the International Monetary Fund on loans totaling 4.8 billion dollars (about 420 billion yen). However, this aid has strings attached, as Egypt will receive the assistance only if it pursues fiscal reconstruction through measures such as tax increases and spending cuts.

The problem is that the Morsi administration is reluctant to implement such measures for fear of a public backlash. The value of the country's currency has declined, given the uncertain prospects of receiving the IMF's financial assistance.

The Egyptian government must tackle fiscal reconstruction swiftly and restore public safety quickly in an effort to bring back foreign tourists.

In the medium and long term, competitiveness in the marketplace is of paramount importance. Fair competition has been impeded because military-related business groups receive preferential treatment.

The special privilege that allows the military to bypass parliamentary approval on the defense budget has been left intact under the new Constitution. Will the Morsi administration have the courage to ax this privilege as it works toward economic reform?

The president's leadership in dealing with the military also will be put to the test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 9, 2013)
(2013年1月9日01時03分  読売新聞)

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税制改正論議 自公で軽減税率を実現せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 10, 2013)
Govt should introduce reduced consumption tax rate system
税制改正論議 自公で軽減税率を実現せよ(1月9日付・読売社説)

To achieve the economic revival trumpeted by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, tax system reforms that bring in sufficient tax revenue and are conducive to the nation's economic growth are now needed.

The Liberal Democratic Party's Tax System Research Commission and New Komeito's Tax Research Council have begun full-fledged discussions on tax system revisions for fiscal 2013.

Discussions on tax system revisions for the next fiscal year have been delayed by more than one month compared with regular years due to last month's House of Representatives election. The LDP and Komeito aim to draw up an outline for the revisions later this month, but little time is left.

The government will make a plan approved by the ruling parties' tax panels its final tax system revision plan. It is of great significance that panel members will tap their expertise to discuss how to craft an ideal tax system, which should be fair, neutral and simple.

Priority should be placed on creating an environment that will enable the consumption tax rate to be increased from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014.


2-stage plan has merits

Measures to support low-income earners when the tax increase is implemented have been left unaddressed since the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. The planned tax system revisions for fiscal 2013 should clearly spell out the introduction of a reduced tax rate system under which the consumption tax rate on daily necessities and some other goods is kept low.

A similar system has been implemented in European countries. It has the advantage of being easy for consumers to feel its benefits, such as a limited tax burden on daily shopping.

Komeito has presented a plan to introduce the reduced tax rate system in two phases. We think this is worthy of consideration.

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota, a former Komeito leader, proposed reduced tax rates be applied only on such items as rice, miso, soy sauce and newspapers when the consumption tax rate is raised to 8 percent, and then the range of items subject to the lower rates be expanded when the consumption tax is increased later to 10 percent.

Wariness about the reduced rate system persists in the LDP, but we urge the party to coordinate its members' opinions quickly. The LDP then must talk with Komeito and the DPJ, and steadily carry out integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, which the three parties have agreed on.


Alleviate other burdens

It is also necessary to consider areas in which people will have to shoulder an increased burden due to the consumption tax hike. We urge the government to discuss the extension of housing loan tax breaks, which will expire at the end of this year, as part of its support for home purchases.

The automobile industry wants the vehicle acquisition and weight taxes abolished, claiming that vehicle owners would have to shoulder a heavier burden imposed by the double taxation with the increased consumption tax. However, canning these taxes would generate huge tax revenue shortfalls, so a decision should not be rushed on this matter.

A review of income and inheritance taxes is also a focus of attention in the fiscal 2013 tax system revisions. Ideas floated so far include raising the top income tax rate from 40 percent to 45 percent and to reduce various tax deductions in inheritance tax, which are subtracted from taxable assets, and to raise inheritance tax rates.

These proposals are apparently intended, by squarely aiming at the wealthy, to alleviate the discontent of low-income earners, who will have to bear a relatively large increased burden when the consumption tax is hiked.

However, only an extremely small number of people will be subject to the higher taxes, and therefore the government cannot expect any boost in tax revenues from them. Ideas that simply pander to the public should be avoided.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 9, 2013)
(2013年1月9日01時03分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 9日 (水)

社説:2013年を展望する 「外交の勘」を磨きたい

January 07, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Japan should brush up its diplomatic instincts
社説:2013年を展望する 「外交の勘」を磨きたい

Japan's diplomatic policy for the New Year is set to begin. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is responsible for the new agenda, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, while Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who supports Abe, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

Yoshida signed the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty with the United States, which has served as the foundation for Japan's postwar development and stability, and Kishi revised it into its current form.

The grandsons of these two former prime ministers are set to work closely in breaking the diplomatic impasse amid growing concern about what is widely perceived as a diplomatic crisis.

Kishi based his governing of Japan on the country's security policy.

In his book, "Oiso Zuiso" ("Essay from Oiso"), Yoshida quoted Colonel Edward House, a foreign policy adviser to former U.S. President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, as saying that countries that have no diplomatic instincts would fail.


Prudent diplomatic policy is indispensable for not only the survival of countries but also to allow governments to put their utmost efforts into domestic policy issues, including economic revitalization, social security and education. Moreover, intensifying friction with other countries could fuel the public's anxiety and eventually give rise to exclusive nationalism. To prevent such a situation, it is necessary for the Japanese government to reconfirm that diplomatic policy is the basis for ensuring the country's stability.

A diplomatic crisis, which should be dubbed a "national crisis," has continued in Japan in recent years as tensions between Japan and its neighbors heightened over territorial issues. The year 2013 must be the year when the wisdom of the whole nation will be fully utilized to break the deadlock.

Prime Minister Abe took over the reins of government after bitterly criticizing as a "diplomatic defeat" Japan's friction with China, South Korea and Russia over the Senkaku Islands, the Takeshima Islands and the Northern Territories, respectively, as well as the meandering over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture under the previous administration. There is no denying that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led previous administration that lacked diplomatic instincts brought about the mess. However, no one can tell for sure that Japan would not have suffered the same diplomatic defeat if the LDP had been in power.

The current diplomatic crisis is attributable to the ambiguous diplomatic policy carried out by the longstanding LDP-led administration. It was when the LDP was in power that China enacted a law on its territorial waters in 1992 to recognize the Senkaku Islands as part of its territory, which was an overture to its provocative acts around the area. The dispute over the relocation of the Futenma base is the result of the past LDP-led administration's longstanding appeasement policy in which it forced Okinawa to host an excessive number of U.S. bases in return for massive financial assistance.

The world is undergoing rapid changes. The current international situation is different from that when the LDP was in power until 2009 when the DPJ took over the reins of government. The United States' influence on the world has relatively declined while China, which has replaced Japan as the No. 2 economic power, is also showing military ambitions. South Korea now needs to rely less on Japan. Russia and India have also been increasing their presence as new regional players. Simply responding to changes in the situation in its neighboring countries and complying with U.S. wishes is no longer effective.

As such, Prime Minister Abe is required to work toward rearranging and stabilizing Japan's diplomatic policy that fits with the times instead of rehashing the LDP's previous diplomatic policy. He should begin efforts to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance by seriously considering the purpose of the agreement.

Former Prime Minister Yoshida wrote in his book that both Japan and the United States should hold frank discussions on enforcing the Japan-U.S. security treaty, noting that both countries signed the accord from the standpoint of their respective national policies.
"I think the United States signed the bilateral security treaty out of the need for its Pacific strategy and from the standpoint of a broad U.S. national policy. Japan, for its part, also signed the treaty from the standpoint of its own defense and broad national policy," he wrote. "In enforcing this treaty, our two countries should frankly discuss a wide variety of matters."


The Japan-U.S. alliance will remain solid as long as the two countries need each other. However, the pact will collapse if either side deems that such cooperative relations detrimentally affect their national interests. Japan should clearly show its policy of responding to the Senkaku Islands issue and the relocation of U.S. bases in Okinawa and pursue a solution that will contribute to both countries' national interests and to the stability in the whole region through frank dialogue. Japan and the United States are required to transform the bilateral alliance from one in which Japan unilaterally follows and relies on the United States.

At the same time, Japan should strengthen its solidarity with the entire international community. Media outlets throughout the world have expressed grave concern and criticism of China's provocative acts over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. Japan's position over the issue has been supported by the international community. Behind such support is the world's understanding that Japan is a country that peacefully settles its disputes with other countries through negotiations and that Japan attaches importance to broad-minded nationalism, in which it seeks to peacefully coexist with other countries, rather than narrow-minded nationalism.

Japan must respect such international opinion. The advantage of Japan, which does not measure national strength by military capability, is its close bonds with the international community. Whether the Abe administration can manage relations with countries that are difficult to get along with by increasing its supporters and decreasing its enemies is being called into question.

The image a leader of a country portrays to the international community is a crucial matter that can largely affect national interests. It has been largely pointed out in the international community that Japan has been leaning toward the right following the House of Representatives election in December last year. Under the circumstances, the Abe administration must be cautious about the interpretation of Japan's history of wartime atrocities by its Asian neighbors. In the LDP's previous administrations, gaffes by Cabinet members over the matter often ended up damaging Japan's national interests. The new administration must not repeat these mistakes. The Abe administration should exercise prudence, brush up its diplomatic instincts and break the diplomatic impasse in 2013.

毎日新聞 2013年01月07日 02時30分

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エネルギー戦略 現実的な原発政策を推進せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 9, 2013)
Government must promote realistic nuclear power policy
エネルギー戦略 現実的な原発政策を推進せよ(1月8日付・読売社説)


Revitalizing the Japanese economy will require a stable supply of electricity. This year will be important in that the energy and nuclear power policy, on which the nation's fate rests, needs to be drastically reformulated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown his intention to review the "Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment" drawn up by the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration, which set a target of having zero nuclear reactors operating by the end of the 2030s. Abe also expressed support for allowing the construction of new nuclear plants with enhanced safety features. We think his position on these issues is reasonable.

The government should immediately craft a realistic energy strategy that includes the use of various sources of power generation--including nuclear energy.


Restore stable power supply

A severe accident like the one at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant must never be allowed to happen again. In saying that, if Japan, as a nation with scarce energy resources, hastily changes track and breaks away from nuclear power, the resulting electricity shortage would seriously affect the economy and people's daily lives.

Of the nation's 50 nuclear reactors, only two at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant are generating power. Although no major blackout has occurred while all these reactors are offline, the power supply continues to walk a tightrope. Nuclear power opponents are missing the point when they argue that enough electricity has been provided even without nuclear power generation.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has said the government, on its own responsibility, would proceed with the processes to restart reactors whose safety has been confirmed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. His remarks are heartening.

Still, the nuclear authority will begin screening reactors no sooner than this summer, when new safety guidelines are expected to be compiled. The government should not waste anytime during that period. It must not neglect intensive preparations such as establishing confidence-building measures with local governments and residents in the areas concerned, and devising procedures to ensure reactors can be restarted without delay.

Because even aging thermal power generation facilities have been fired up to compensate for the idled nuclear reactors, the costs of liquefied natural gas and other fuel have increased by 3 trillion yen a year.

Although it is natural for power companies to strive to cut costs through restructuring, there are limits. TEPCO started raising power rates from April last year. KEPCO and Kyushu Electric Power Co. also have asked the government for approval to hike their power rates from this spring.

Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, is known as a metalworking industry city. In a survey conducted last autumn by the Kawaguchi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one in four companies said their business would collapse or be badly affected if power rates are increased. The survey covered midsize and smaller companies that are members of the chamber.

If nuclear reactors cannot be restarted within fiscal 2013, TEPCO and other utilities will likely be forced to further raise power rates. A crisis in employment caused by mass bankruptcies and closures of smaller companies is becoming an ever more realistic prospect.


Don't overly rely on renewables

According to a government estimate, electricity charges would double if nuclear power generation was abandoned. This would impose a heavy burden on household finances. Low-income households have little scope for reducing their electricity use because they already have been making power-saving efforts. We should be keenly aware that a policy of no nuclear power would hurt the weaker members of our society the most.

There are high expectations that renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, will be able to replace nuclear power. However, as things stand now, there is no visible prospect of renewable energy becoming a major power source. Electricity produced through renewable energy sources is unstable because it depends on weather conditions, and it is expensive.

Especially problematic is the system introduced in July under which the government obliges power companies to purchase renewable energy at fixed prices. The system is intended to encourage the spread of renewable energy.

Indeed, solar power output has increased under the new system. However, the system imposes additional burdens on consumers, as the power companies' cost of purchasing renewable energy is passed on through power bills.

In Germany, which introduced a similar system before Japan did, power charges for households have doubled as the cost of purchasing renewable energy swelled. The cost of buying renewable energy in Japan is about twice as high as that of Germany. The government should cut the purchase price to prevent power charges from surging.

Due to the DPJ administration's wavering attitude on nuclear power, local governments that host nuclear plants have become increasingly skeptical about the central government's nuclear policy.

It is important that the Abe administration carefully explain to these local governments how it will put the nation's nuclear policy back on track after the repeated missteps by the DPJ.

The government has tightened safety inspections on nuclear power plants, which could lead to the early decommissioning of some of them. If this happens, the government will need to consider how to find employment for plant workers who lost their jobs and provide alternative methods for boosting the local economy.

The Nuclear Damages Compensation Law requires electric power companies to bear all liabilities for nuclear accidents. We believe this is another reason why the credibility of the government's nuclear policy has crumbled. A review of the law was shelved by the administration of Abe's predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda. Abe should quickly start this review.

The financial cost of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and decontaminating areas polluted with radioactive substances remains unclear, but it is apparent TEPCO will be unable to pay the entire amount by itself. Drawing up new measures to support the utility also will be a task for the Abe administration.


Show clear future vision

We want to remind the administration of the need to secure talented people who underpin the safety of nuclear power. If experienced employees in charge of field-work management at power suppliers and their related companies leave their jobs, it would hinder the smooth restart of idled reactors.

Unless the government shows a clear future vision on nuclear power, such as whether to continue the nation's nuclear fuel cycle program to recycle spent nuclear fuel, people who aspire to work in the nuclear sector will eventually dwindle. If such a thing happened, it would become difficult to maintain the nation's nuclear power technologies and hand them down to future generations. It will also mean that Japan will become unlikely to resolve the long-standing issue of the final disposal of spent fuel by itself.

An increasing number of emerging economies have started nuclear power generation or are increasing their nuclear power plants. We believe the best way for Japan to contribute to the international community is to refine its nuclear technologies to build power plants more resistant to not only natural disasters but also to accidents and terrorist attacks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 8, 2013)
(2013年1月8日01時15分  読売新聞)

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 8
EDITORIAL: Diet must establish procedures to deal with ‘invalid’ election results

Next week, trials will start across the nation concerning the gap in the value of a vote between the most and the least populous Lower House constituencies. Lawsuits seeking nullification of the results of the Dec. 16 Lower House election have been filed in 34 single-seat electoral districts.

Immediately before the Lower House dissolution in November for the snap election, the Diet passed bills to reduce the number of single-seat constituencies by one in each of five prefectures to reduce the disparity gap. However, there was not enough time to redraw the boundaries of constituencies. As a result, the Dec. 16 election was held under the current allocation of seats, which was declared by the Supreme Court in March 2011 to be “in a state of unconstitutionality” and “against the equality under the law.”

The Diet failed to correct this inequality for as long as one year and eight months after the top court’s ruling. There is no doubt that the legislature could have taken some remedial measures during the period. It is clear that the Dec. 16 election was unconstitutional.

If a court hands down a ruling that shows sympathy to the lawmakers’ excuse that more time was needed to tackle the problem, the public’s criticism will be directed beyond the Diet and at the court.

Attention is now focused on which direction the courts will take. The courts could rule that the election results are valid although the election itself is unconstitutional. Such a decision would take into consideration concerns that nullifying the election would cause serious confusion. Or the courts could rule that the results of the election are invalid.

The Supreme Court has never declared the results of an election to be invalid in similar vote-value disparity cases. There is no denying that the top court’s cautious attitude in dealing with the issue has allowed the Diet to drag its feet on tackling this serious problem, disappointing public expectations in the judiciary.

To be fair, however, we should also consider one important factor that has been behind the top court’s attitude: The Diet has yet to enact legislation on procedures to be taken when the results of an election are ruled invalid.

If the results of an election for specific districts are finally confirmed invalid in the judicial process, the Diet members elected from the districts will lose their seats, making it necessary to hold a fresh election to fill the vacancies. This process will require revising the law concerning allocation of seats and zoning of electoral districts.

In such a case, only lawmakers who have retained their seats will deliberate the bills. But is such a situation tolerable? Besides, what will they set as the time limit for the fresh election? Since the election system as a whole has so many shortcomings, this is not a problem that can be solved by simply holding an election again for certain districts. The most reasonable way to deal with the situation is to call another Lower House election after making necessary revisions. But this approach would raise questions concerning the Cabinet’s right to dissolve the Lower House.

Measures should also be worked out to address the same problem with the Upper House, which is not dissolved for a snap election.

These issues have been pointed out since more than 30 years ago. But the Diet has left them as they are.

The judiciary has been reluctant to declare election results invalid in consideration of various concerns, while the legislature has been neglecting to take necessary actions despite being well aware of the problem. As a result, Japanese voters have been denied their right to equal treatment in elections. This outrageous situation must end immediately.

The Diet has a duty to establish a fair election system that doesn’t raise any questions on constitutionality or validity.

But the Diet would not be acting inappropriately if it decided on procedures that minimize the resulting confusion after elections are declared invalid.

Such an effort is a totally reasonable response that should be taken by the legislature of any nation under the rule of law.

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2013年1月 8日 (火)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:12月が身にしみる /東京

December 16, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Surviving another year
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:12月が身にしみる /東京

While some people might be delighted about Christmas and the approaching end of the year, I suspect that there are many people who do not share their joy.

I hardly meet people who are looking forward to Christmas or end-of-year parties, especially when I'm at my clinic. Many people would rather not have a month like December, like the woman who sheds tears of loneliness when she hears a Christmas song; a company employee who is troubled because he has to go to parties with customers though he's very shy around people; a young man who wears a sarcastic smile worried about what he should write in his new year cards though still unemployed; and a housewife who claims that even the thought of visiting her husband's family over the break gives her a headache.

When I meet people like them, people who are depressed and down about the end of the year, I always say, "Well, it's December, that means we've survived this year somehow." I say this because I mean it.

As you get older, hitting my age, you see close friends and relatives who get sick or even pass away. Although we may feel like "it's just another Christmas" and can't really enjoy the season, if we have survived the year somehow, even that mediocre feeling about Christmas isn't so bad.

We need to feel we are carrying out a "life worth living" that many may not even call "happiness." Although we hear many stories about the upcoming election that talks about "hundreds of lower house seats" or about "a strong coalition government after the election," we can't relate to such comments.

Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese scientist who just received the Nobel Prize in Sweden, said to reporters, "I felt like I was in a dream the whole time." This obviously is a good dream but after the Great East Japan Earthquake last year, or maybe even before that, many people who live in Japan have felt like they're stuck in a bad dream all the time.

While such a mood is certainly present, we cannot live without finding even a little joy or happiness. I find myself getting more depressed as I hear a candidate with a big smile shouting from a car, "We're almost there!"

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年12月11日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:高齢者も若者も大変 /東京

December 23, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Feeling too helpless to help
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:高齢者も若者も大変 /東京

Now that the House of Representatives election is over, I suspect many people are wondering about how the result will affect our lives.

In the election campaign, some candidates pledged to work for a society in which the elderly don't have to worry about their lives. On the other hand, there were candidates who emphasized policies for the younger generation. It seemed as if the candidates were making us voters decide which side we should take -- the elderly or the young. However, it is clear, at least in my clinic, that both of them are having difficult times in today's society.

In fact, the "difficult times" both generations are facing is an urgent matter that needs addressing. A patient of mine talks to me about a hospital possibly kicking her parent out but the person doesn't know where else to go. Another younger patient who quit his job because of depression from stress after working at a "sweatshop" now can't find work or get welfare. Both of them need help "today," they have no time for thinking about what the future will bring for Japan.

I feel like I'm slowly losing my sense of humanity when I have to suggest to my patients to go talk to the local government office as I escort them out of my clinic while they cry out of misery because they have no place to go from here. I do want to tell them that I will take care of them, but in reality, I'm not capable of supporting them in any way. I can't help but feel powerless, though I know such a feeling won't help my patients. I have to move on or give up sometimes in order to focus on the next task.

As a psychiatrist, I meet people facing difficult times. I want to help them but I know I sometimes can't. Feeling powerless, I pretend like I don't see them.

I am probably not the only one who is feeling this way -- a feeling of helplessness and self-hatred as the situation slowly breaks one's heart.

The kanji (Chinese character) "kin" -- meaning gold -- was chosen as this year's best kanji that represented national traits for 2012, but I can't find anything shiny as gold in my heart. I truly wish for the next year to be as bright as a gold medal, and wonder if those elected candidates know anything about my hopes, or anybody's for that matter, for the next year.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年12月18日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:簡単ではない“人間支援” /東京

December 30, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Is 'just being alive' good enough?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:簡単ではない“人間支援” /東京

I recently read a very interesting book called "Okan no Hirugohan" (Mom's lunch). It's written by Zoonie Yamada, who has a unique profession: "instructor in written expression." A newspaper ad I saw for this book said it "expresses the confused feelings people encounter when facing their parents' old age." Being interested in the topic, I immediately purchased the book.

While the book provided realistic information on how to deal with aging parents, it actually devoted more attention to the task of choosing a job. Although this wasn't what I had expected, I found it interesting anyway.

I was surprised when I saw my name in the book. According to Ms. Yamada, after the Great East Japan Earthquake she had been impressed by my words "Just being alive is good enough!"

Since I'm a doctor and curing the sick and saving lives is the ultimate goal for us doctors, I can confidently say to people, "If you're alive, you're OK!" However, as an educator, Ms. Yamada's job is to make things better and help people move forward. In this respect she said she felt helpless after the earthquake disaster.

In fact, "just being alive is good enough" is the title of a book that features this "Kaleidoscope of the Heart" series, and the book happened to be published right after the earthquake. Although I do tell my patients, "The mere fact that you're alive and could make it to the clinic today is wonderful," and I say this because I believe it, reading Ms. Yamada's book made me question myself. Maybe this way of thinking is unique to doctors.

Nevertheless, I understand that the human psyche is not so simple as to think just being alive is good enough. What truly helps patients in my clinic is thinking that they've helped somebody else or they can do things they couldn't do before -- which could be regarded as "making things better" and "moving forward." Unless you're a monk who has attained enlightenment, it's difficult to be satisfied with yourself just being alive.

Accepting people as the way they are is just the first step. We then need to push them a little further and help them blossom and live up to their potential. The best approach is to have medical, welfare and education teams work together in the name of "human support," but I know that this is no easy task.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年12月25日 地方版

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 6
EDITORIAL: East Asian countries must overcome hardships to share peace, prosperity

Nearly 100 years ago, the saga of a territorial dispute began over the Aland Islands in the northern part of the Baltic Sea.

The combined land area of the small islands is slightly larger than that of the main island of Okinawa Prefecture.

Finland based its sovereignty claim over the Aland Islands on the historical fact that they had been under its control for long periods, while neighboring Sweden pointed to the sentiment among residents of the islands, who spoke Swedish in their daily lives. The sovereignty dispute was submitted to the League of Nations.


In June 1921, the League of Nations decided that Finland should retain sovereignty over the islands but they should be made an autonomous, demilitarized and politically neutral region.

Both countries accepted the ruling and concluded an international treaty to make Aland “demilitarized islands.”

Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), a Japanese educator who was an undersecretary general of the league at that time, said the settlement over the Aland Islands will establish a precedent for dealing with future territorial problems that may disturb amicable relations of countries, whether large or small. But the significance of the ruling goes beyond that.

National borders, by nature, separate nations from nations, people from people.
For the 28,000 residents of the Aland Islands, however, the national border now exists only by name, and it works to link countries and people.

The passengers of ferries traveling between the islands and Sweden are not required to carry passports. Seventy percent of young people who have graduated from high school on the islands go on to universities in Sweden. Camilla Gunell, current premier of the autonomous government of Aland, says the economy of the islands benefits from an increase in people who cross the border. The decision by the League of Nations that settled the dispute has helped make the islanders richer, Gunell says.

An important undertaking to change the meaning of a national border has been also made in Germany, which faces the southern part of the Baltic Sea.

Frankfurt (Oder) is a town located on the German-Polish border, a one-hour train ride from Berlin. Before World War II, the whole region around the town was part of Germany. Following Germany’s defeat in the war, however, the area on the opposite side of the Oder River became Polish territory. Many Germans, driven out of the area that had become part of the Soviet bloc, crossed the Oder River into Germany.


An attempt to make the border less of a barrier to exchanges between people of the two countries started in 1970.

In that year, Willy Brandt (1913-1992), chancellor of West Germany, visited Poland and other countries in the Soviet bloc and announced his country’s acceptance of the borderline drawn after the war. There was opposition to Brandt’s decision within West Germany, but he made the move to ensure the coexistence and the stability of Western and Eastern Europe.

Viadrina European University, on the German side of the Oder River, was established in 1991, after the Cold War ended. The university has started a program to help people visit their hometowns in the former German territory. The project is part of the university’s efforts to accomplish its mission of serving as a bridge between the East and the West in Europe. Under the program, students at the university make necessary arrangements for people’s trips to their hometowns in the Polish side of the Oder River, including finding interpreters. It is an attempt to build links between people living on both sides of the border.

These developments in Europe are different from the path that has led to the current situation in East Asia.

Last year, tensions flared between Japan and its two neighbors--China and South Korea--over islands. The differences between the governments’ sovereignty claims seem unbridgeable. The conditions are not right for the kind of settlement worked out through diplomatic efforts in which Nitobe was involved.

Despite increased interdependence among countries due to economic globalization, territorial disputes in areas around Japan continue to generate acute international tension because of history issues related to World War II.

After the end of the war, Germany totally admitted to the war crimes committed by the Nazis. This made it possible for Germany to cooperate with neighboring countries in leading Europe toward regional integration.

On various occasions, Japan has also expressed its regret and apologies for its past invasion of neighboring countries. As a result, Japan has managed to obtain an understanding from Southeast Asian nations.

But mutual trust between Japan and its close neighbors has been eroded repeatedly by some Japanese politicians’ indiscreet remarks and actions related to history issues.

The shift in the balance of power between Japan and China, caused by China’s rise, has also widened the gaps in perceptions of people in both countries.


How should we solve the structural problems behind such mutual distrust?

There have been a variety of steady, low-profile efforts to tackle this challenge.

For example, a discussion forum called “Jing Forum” was created for regular debates between students of the University of Tokyo and Peking University. Every year, around two dozen students from both universities lodge together to discuss a wide range of issues in English. The forum’s seventh debate camp took place last autumn at the height of tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, a group of islets in the East China Sea.

Still, the participating students chose the Senkaku Islands dispute as a topic for discussions in one of the subcommittees. In Beijing, where anti-Japanese protests were raging, and in Tokyo, the students of the two universities spent two weeks or so examining the claims of both governments and engaged in heated debates. They also listened to the opinions of academics and visited companies.

In the end, none of the students totally accepted the arguments of the other side. As they discussed factors related to the educational and media environments where the claims of both countries have been generated, however, some students said they were not convinced of their governments’ arguments in the dispute. In a debriefing session, students stated their own opinions, instead of those of their governments.

“Although we didn’t reach an agreement, we understood each other and created a sense of trust between the two sides through discussions,” says Daiki Komatsu, a 21-year-old student at the University of Tokyo who heads the forum. “In order to improve relations between Japan and China, I believe it is important for us to develop stronger links between us.”

The 21st century is an age of Asia, where countries like China, India and Indonesia will expand their power and influence. We should never allow the region to return to an era of military confrontation. The countries in the region need to overcome the challenges facing them to share peace and prosperity.

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日本経済再生 デフレ脱却の成果が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 8, 2013)
Government, BOJ must lead Japan out of deflation
日本経済再生 デフレ脱却の成果が問われる(1月7日付・読売社説)


The Abe administration has set economic revitalization as the top priority on its policy agenda.

Can it bring about a business recovery and lead Japan out of deflation to lay the foundation for stable growth in the medium and long term? The "two lost decades" that followed the bursting of the economic bubble must be brought to an end this year.

The government needs to come up with concrete measures for what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted as "economic policy on a different level from previous ones," and implement them flexibly.


Overcome zero growth

Nominal gross domestic product, which more accurately represents sentiment felt by households and businesses, stands at about 470 trillion yen, unchanged from two decades ago. In contrast with China, whose GDP expanded by about 20 times during the same period, Japan has meandered along as a "zero-growth state."

Many experts point out it will become increasingly difficult for Japan to attain economic growth due to its shrinking and aging population and chronically low birthrate. Growth can no longer be simply expected for Japan. Some people probably hold such a pessimistic view.

But is it any use to sit back and do nothing?

At a news conference held after he assumed the post of prime minister, Abe said, "There is no future for a country that abandons hope for growth." He is right. If the people lose their hopes and aspirations, this nation will never regain its economic vigor.

First and foremost, it is necessary to conquer deflation, which has dragged on for more than 10 years. Failure to do this will kill future prospects for growth before they get off the ground. This is because deflation curbs corporate profits and household income, thereby accelerating economic contraction.

The Abe administration will try to rebuild a robust economy by implementing the "three arrows" of combined policy initiatives--drastic monetary easing, flexible fiscal management and a growth strategy to encourage private investment. This prescription for growth is reasonable.

Since late December, the Nikkei Stock Average has been rising sharply and the yen has weakened against the dollar, falling to the 88 yen level to the greenback. This underscores the high hopes pinned on the new administration's economic package.


In parallel with the Bank of Japan's monetary easing, the government will need to make up for weak demand through such steps as effective public works projects.


Stronger cooperation vital

Most important in this respect will be to bolster cooperation between the government and the bank.

Abe asked central bank Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa to agree on setting a 2 percent inflation target and conclude a policy accord. The bank is likely to introduce an inflation target sometime this month. The government and the bank must set a clear inflation target and share responsibility for achieving it.

Worryingly, Abe and some other Cabinet members have been forward in calling for the central bank to conclude the policy accord and other matters, by linking them with a revision of the Bank of Japan Law and the appointment of Shirakawa's successor.

During World War II, the government made the central bank buy government bonds, triggering a plunge in government bond prices and hyperinflation.

If the Bank of Japan's independence is eroded, it could cause government bond prices to nosedive. We urge the Abe administration to strictly refrain from making comments and taking actions that could be misconstrued as attempts to exert political pressure on the central bank.

Tackling fiscal reconstruction will require ending dole-out policies and steadily raising the consumption tax rate. Such efforts also will be essential to ensure market confidence in government bonds.


Consider corporate tax cut

Besides deflation, the Japanese economy is riddled with many problems.

It is welcome news that the historically high value of the yen is being corrected. But if the yen falls too far, there will be such side effects as an expansion in the trade deficit.

In particular, imports of fuel including liquefied natural gas are rising sharply to keep thermal power plants operating at full capacity in place of the mostly idled nuclear power plants.

The weaker yen will push up the costs of importing fuel, which will flow on to higher electricity bills. We hope such "bad price increases" can be avoided. Restarting nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed is important from the standpoint of easing such side effects of the weaker yen.

It is certain that domestic consumer and other markets are heading for contraction as the working generations shrink. Should the number of workers fall, economic growth will slow down.

Provide more government support to people raising children to help stop Japan's population from declining; Prevent the labor market from shriveling by promoting the employment of women and elderly people; Enhance Japanese companies' international competitiveness by lowering the excessively high corporate tax rate.

It is already known what policies are needed to revitalize the economy.

In such sectors as health and nursing care, where demand will grow in step with the aging population, there is potential demand for higher-quality services even if they come at a higher cost. We think the government should press ahead with reviews of the rigid rules and regulations in these sectors.

The government must inject money and manpower intensively and boldly into effective projects, and implement them quickly.

By making good use of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy--which is to be reinstated under the Abe administration--and the newly established headquarters for Japan's economic revitalization, the government must eradicate the evils of bureaucratic sectionalism at government ministries and break down entrenched vested interests.

It is essential for Japan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework led by the United States so it can harness demand in foreign markets, including in Asia.

Business circles, including the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), are imploring the government to take part in the TPP negotiations soon so as to promote growth. The government should quickly decide on Japan's joining the talks and get involved in formulating the partnership's rules on trade and investment. That will indeed serve the interests of the nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 7, 2013)
(2013年1月7日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 7日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 4
EDITORIAL: Companies must meet challenges with originality

The first domestically produced passenger jet is set to take off as early as this autumn.

It is the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), a small plane designed to carry up to 100 passengers that was developed by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., a Nagoya-based subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI).

Unlike the market for medium to large passenger planes dominated by the U.S. manufacturer Boeing Co. and the European maker Airbus SAS, there is much room in this small-plane market for new entrants. According to industry sources, there is demand for about 5,000 small airplanes.

MHI has long been supplying Boeing and Airbus with parts. However, partly due to the advancement of rival Asian companies that are beginning to catch up, Mitsubishi decided to make inroads into the market of finished aircraft, taking the current opportunity as its last chance to do so.


Because Japan excels in manufacturing, no concerns about the plane are heard from the airlines purchasing them.

But that alone does not explain why these passenger planes are selling well. The orders that Mitsubishi Aircraft has received for 330 of its MRJ planes are the fruit of its "sales effort."

A determining factor for sales is the standard of after-sale service to promptly resolve problems on a global scale. If the standard is high, airlines can use the aircraft efficiently and increase their profits. And because used planes can be sold at reasonable prices, the manufacturer can sell the new planes to airlines at high prices.

If Mitsubishi Aircraft had tried to do business on its own, it would have been left behind. It has tied up with Boeing to learn its know-how and selected companies from around the world that excel in such areas as repairs and training to team up with.

While products are still the main pillar, the manufacturer has become a leading player in the market by building sales and service systems to fully meet the needs of customers. This is a path that any Japanese company seeking global advancement should follow.

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the Austrian-born American authority on management, observed that the true nature of corporate management lies in technical innovation and the creation of markets.

However, it seems that Japanese companies became overconfident about their manufacturing abilities and lost sight of their directions in the effort to sell what they made. Because their products have not sold at list prices, they have been forced to make discounts, which has led to the deflation plaguing them.

Once again at this juncture, they need to find the wisdom to make the world recognize the value of their products and services, in other words, to recover the strength of their brands. Otherwise, they will be swallowed up as newly emerging countries advance and companies compete with each other more on the basis of their "uniqueness."


A private event called "Ippen mitaroka, eeyan bunraku" (Bunraku is cool, why not go see it?) was held in Osaka in December.

The municipal government's review of its subsidies for bunraku, a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, led a group to organize the event with an aim to take a new look at bunraku. Before the actual performance, a talk was held between puppeteer Kiritake Kanjuro, writer Arisu Arisugawa and fashion designer Hiroko Koshino.

"Cutting off subsidies on the grounds that puppet shows are attracting fewer people is not what needs to be done. Rather, we must secure producers who can bridge the gap between tradition and current trends to increase the number of customers," Arisugawa said.

Koshino has been familiar with bunraku since her childhood because her grandfather used to take her to see it.

"I gained much from that experience. Individuality that comes out naturally is appreciated globally. It is difficult to obtain that even if you deliberately aim to produce something Japanese," she said.

In other words, only true individuality can be appreciated. The same thing can be applied to companies. Anyone can cut costs. The job of managers is to develop their company within its society.

French, Italian and Swiss companies that have firmly established themselves in Japanese markets have strong brands backed by their unique character.

In Japan, too, whether a company is located in urban or rural areas has no bearing. Rather, local companies that can steadily do business blessed by tradition and nature may be in a more desirable environment to create value.

Companies should protect work that requires human labor and play a social role to distribute income. Instead of sticking to shrinking domestic markets, they should deal directly with the world. If a place in which companies can stimulate each other is nurtured locally, it will also attract people who work in major urban areas.

In the 21st century, there must be a model of success different from the postwar one that led to overconcentration in Tokyo.


Starting this autumn, Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) will operate "Nanatsuboshi" (Seven Stars), a luxury sleeping car excursion train. A three-night, four-day tour (with two nights spent in the train) that travels across five prefectures and visits such tourist destinations as Yufuin (Oita Prefecture), Kirishima (Kagoshima Prefecture) and Aso (Kumamoto Prefecture) costs up to 1.1 million yen (about $13,000) per couple. Inquiries from travel agents in other countries have also been increasing.

By positioning the railway, which is essentially a means of transportation, as "a place to stay," JR Kyushu broke new ground. It took a hint from luxury cruise liners.

However, deluxe train cars and in-car services alone are not enough to complete the picture. Collaboration with various forms of hospitality offered by tourist destinations along the way provides the key.

There is no way rich people from around the world can be fooled. One must strictly ask oneself, "What is 'real' travel?" More than anything else, the ability to come up with good ideas is needed.

JR Kyushu has accumulated a wealth of experiences by running unique tourist trains in the past. Nanatsuboshi is the result of that accumulation, and at the same time, it has the role of creating new value by linking unique regions that have devoted themselves to attracting tourists.

When beautiful jewels are strung together, they make an even more beautiful necklace. There are, without a doubt, many more clues to the challenge of creating such a desirable cycle.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 5
EDITORIAL: Citizens should play the leading role in democracy

Let us reflect on the state of democracy in this nation.

We want to do so because Japan's political ills appear to indicate that democracy in this country itself has a cold, so to speak.

Japanese people's distrust of politics has deepened to an alarming degree, and the number of voters who support specific political parties has dwindled. It seems polls are determined not by voters' "support" but by their "nonsupport." Parties that no longer have a strong base of supporters inevitably go adrift, tossed about by the vicissitudes of politics.

Does democracy work well when it is fueled by the negative sentiment of disapproval?

An illuminating insight is offered by a political philosopher from an age in which political parties lost the support of people who used to sympathize with them.

When communities collapse and social ties are severed, the masses feel discarded and turn hostile toward the "establishment," including political parties and the representatives of interest groups. And when a defeat in war and unemployment have spread anxiety among them, those masses seek stories that fulfill their desire to escape from reality.

That's why people in Germany believed the fiction of a Jewish world conspiracy that the Nazis created for their propaganda. This keen observation was made by Hannah Arendt, a German-born Jew, in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," published in 1951.


How can we build connections between people and politics based on positive sentiments?

Some Japanese may think that politics is a "service industry" and they are its customers. Such people would say that if they become dissatisfied with the services provided, they need only change the provider (the ruling party).

Such a notion can only cause us to suffer disillusionment with politics again and again.

In today's Japan, where the population is aging rapidly amid low birthrates, it is difficult for any party in power to keep providing satisfactory services.

First of all, are citizens customers?

Citizens lodge petitions, while politicians try to secure budgets for projects and programs they favor. Toshinari Yokoo, a 31-year-old member of the Minato Ward assembly in Tokyo, is working to change this traditional relationship between citizens and politicians in Japan into a constructive partnership for tackling challenges.

Yokoo's election manifesto is composed of policy proposals that emerged from his conversations with citizens.

One of the proposals is to scrap the restrictive rules on what children can do in parks, designed to prevent them from getting injured, so that they can play in an unrestrained manner. Another is to establish a system that allows citizens to rent a bicycle at one bicycle parking lot and return it at another.

As these proposals get into the process of implementation, those who have proposed them get excited about the fact that their ideas can really become a reality.

Yokoo also uses the Internet to solicit ideas from ordinary citizens. He has posted calls for ideas about, for instance, how to raise the ratio of young people voting in elections and new ways to use community notice boards. He then brings ideas offered by citizens to the ward assembly for consideration.

"Traditionally, the will of the local residents means the opinions of the representatives of neighborhood associations and local interest groups, and little attention has been paid to the voices of young people," says Yokoo. "But it is young people who are most familiar with the problems facing them. We should try to gather ideas from 100 'thinking amateurs' rather than relying on one biased representative."

Yokoo believes the principal role of politicians is to extract ideas from citizens.

If people want to carve out a wonderful future for themselves on their own, they need media that focus more on communicating great ideas than on providing distressing news.

That's the idea behind the publication of web magazine "greenz.jp" by Nao Suzuki, 36, who heads Greenz, an incorporated nonprofit organization.

An article published in the online magazine tells about a unique way to connect consumers to workers who make products.


The website of a French designer allows shoppers to choose the old lady who knits the hat or the muffler they order. Buyers chose one of the knitters based on their pictures and personal information, like a love of rock music. Purchasers express their gratitude to the old ladies who have knitted their hats and mufflers, and thus begin exchanges between the consumers and the knitters.

"As social ties between people become weak in this society, there are growing signs that people are seeking to solve problems through rebuilding those ties," observes Suzuki. "Share houses and networks to exchange clothes are just two examples. But the enormous distance between citizens and politics makes it difficult to propose policies to support this trend."

In order to narrow that distance, Suzuki has launched the "Senkyo (Election) CAMP" campaign. His organization rented one floor of a building in Tokyo's Shibuya district for a period of one month that included the Dec. 16 Lower House election for use as a venue for discussions open to everybody.

The discussion forum was designed to change people's attitude toward politics from "It's somebody else's business" to "It's our own business." Participants had discussions with guests, including politicians, on topics such as the kind of future they want and what they can do to change the situation.

Similar moves have emerged in 15 places nationwide. Suzuki hopes to expand this movement during the run-up to the Upper House election next summer.

When asked about the current state of politics in Japan, he gave the following answer.

"It is meaningless to keep repeating the process of planting carrots in sterile land in the narrow farm called Nagata-cho (Japan's political power center) and then replacing them with red turnips when they wither.

"What we need to do is to expand conversations (on politics) among citizens, create countless venues for such public discussions and nurture rich democratic ecosystems all over the nation."


It is futile and dangerous for us to bewail the failure of politics to meet our expectations and wait longingly for saviors. We should be wary of politicians who talk about easy solutions to the thorny problems facing the nation.

Citizens need to confront the challenges facing them and try to make politicians take effective steps to tackle them. Politicians, for their part, should promote information disclosure and create effective systems to seek ideas and proposals from citizens.

Japanese citizens must change themselves from voters who only cast ballots at the polls into participants in the sovereignty of their nation. They must take a first step toward realizing a true democracy in which the people play the leading role.

Yokoo is also the chief of NPO corporation Greenbird, a group of young people dedicated to cleaning up their communities.
There are a total of 43 teams of young people working for the cause across Japan and overseas.

"We really enjoy working in teams and receiving positive reactions from people," says Yokoo. "I hope we can also get involved in politics in an enjoyable and cool way."

We agree. Democracy can be fun if we play the leading role.

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裁判員裁判 検証結果を制度定着に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 7, 2013)
Top court's review should lead to improved lay judge trials
裁判員裁判 検証結果を制度定着に生かせ(1月6日付・読売社説)

To ensure the lay judge system becomes well-established, it is important to steadily rectify every shortcoming that was mentioned in the latest review of the system.

More than 34,000 people have so far served as lay judges or supplementary lay judges. In December, the Supreme Court compiled a review of how the citizen judge system has performed in the three years since its launch in May 2009. This was the first review of its kind.

Lay judge trials have tended to hand down punishments that are either the same as or more severe than sentences sought by the prosecution. In particular, lay judge trials have tended to mete out heavier penalties than demanded by prosecutors in cases involving despicable sexual offenses, according to the review.

This is probably because citizen judges have tended to draw conclusions that better reflect the sentiments of ordinary people. They are not bound by conventional trial practices in which professional judges generally hand down sentences 20 percent lighter than demanded by the prosecution.


Speed up pretrial arrangements

The average number of days spent on court proceedings from the start of a court session to sentencing is about six, according to the top court's review. The trial process, which took an average of about six months when carried out by only professional judges, has been greatly sped up.

On the other hand, pretrial arrangement proceedings that judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers hold before opening court hearings with the aim of narrowing down points of contention have been getting longer. In cases last year in which defendants denied the charges against them, pretrial arrangement proceedings took an average of nearly nine months, the review showed.

A certain period of time is certainly required to clarify the main points of dispute in a trial. But the longer it takes for court hearings to start, the more witnesses' memories can fade. This raises concerns that questioning in court could be impeded.

To correct this situation, prosecutors need to be more willing to disclose items of evidence, and defense lawyers to complete their arguments as swiftly as possible.

It is also problematic that prosecutors in public hearings spend a considerable time reading out documents, including depositions by the accused.

Many people who have served as lay judges were cited in the review as saying that reading out these documents took too long and was monotonous, and that they were unable to maintain their concentration and remember what the prosecutors said.

This alarming situation runs counter to the very basis of the lay judge system, which was intended to make court proceedings easier to understand for ordinary citizens.


Lessen burden on citizen judges

We think prosecutors should focus more on substantiating their assertions primarily through testimony from the accused, witnesses and others to make it easier for lay judges to make decisions, instead of depending on documents.

In addition, more consideration must be given to prevent citizen judges from being weighed down by their heavy workload.

In the trial in which the Tottori District Court on Dec. 4 gave a female defendant the death penalty for her involvement in two mysterious deaths, lay judges had to sit at a trial that lasted 75 days--the second longest since the lay judge system started.

The defendant was indicted on charges of drowning two male acquaintances, but there were no direct items of evidence such as a confession by the defendant, who remained silent during questioning through the hearings.

Looking back at the proceedings, one lay judge said at a news conference after the trial, "Sentencing [the defendant to death] was painful and severe." This comment indicated the citizen judges may have felt pressured to make an extremely difficult judgment.

To help alleviate lay judges' fatigue, courts should be considerate enough to let them take regular breaks, and show photographic evidence not in color but in black and white to lessen the psychological impact of traumatic images.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 6, 2013)
(2013年1月6日01時21分  読売新聞)

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靖国放火容疑者 韓国の引き渡し拒否は不当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 7, 2013)
South Korean refusal to extradite Yasukuni arson suspect unjust
靖国放火容疑者 韓国の引き渡し拒否は不当だ(1月6日付・読売社説)

An unjust decision by the South Korean judicial authorities could seriously affect relations with Japan.

Japan's request to the South Korean government to extradite a Chinese suspected of setting fire to the Shinmon main gate of Yasukuni Shrine was turned down by the Seoul High Court, which called the arson attack a "political crime." The suspect is now back in China.

Beijing openly requested that the suspect be repatriated to China, arguing that he should be handled like a "political prisoner." The South Korean decision to comply with that request indicates the country shows more consideration to China than Japan.

It was natural for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to say: "South Korea effectively ignored the bilateral treaty on extradition. It is extremely regrettable and I would like to strongly protest."

The suspect was sentenced to 10 months in South Korea for throwing a Molotov cocktail at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in January last year. During questioning, he reportedly confessed to setting a fire at Yasukuni in December 2011.


'Comfort woman' motive

Asked for a motive for the series of attacks on Japanese facilities, the suspect reportedly said his grandmother was a so-called comfort woman and he was angry over the Japanese government's views on history and its responses.

The Seoul High Court said Yasukuni enshrines war criminals convicted for leading a war of aggression and the shrine is a "political symbol" as it is used as a national facility and is visited by cabinet ministers and other people.

The court ruled that the arson attack on Yasukuni was a crime with the political purpose of changing Japan's policies. It turned down extradition on the grounds that the arson was tantamount to a "political crime."

This is a surprising ruling, as it equates the exoneration of an arsonist with absolving a person who commits a serious crime in the name of a political cause based on historical events. This is the same as saying that anything can be done to Yasukuni Shrine.

We are concerned that the court ruling may induce other people to commit similar crimes.


Gap in historical views

A huge gap exists in the views on historical events between Japan and South Korea. However, it is totally unreasonable to imply that arson is a political crime.

The South Korean judicial authorities have ruled on other historical issues.

In August 2011, the South Korean Constitutional Court ruled it was unconstitutional for the South Korean government to have failed to make an effort to solve the issue of compensation rights of former comfort women.

In May last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that the individual compensation rights of former Korean laborers who were brought to work at Japanese companies during World War II were valid.

The issue of such compensation rights was settled "completely and finally" under one of the bilateral agreements concluded when bilateral relations were normalized. The Japanese government should continue to firmly maintain this position.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 6, 2013)
(2013年1月6日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 6日 (日)

転機の日本政治 試される安倍政権の統治能力

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 6, 2013)
Abe administration's ability to tackle problems faces test
転機の日本政治 試される安倍政権の統治能力(1月5日付・読売社説)


With the change of government, positive signs have emerged for the nation's prospects for this year.

Since just before the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was launched, the super-strong yen has weakened and stock prices have jumped, apparently reflecting high hopes for the Abe administration's economic measures. On Friday, the first trading day of 2013, most stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange climbed, recovering levels seen before the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

Can Abe restore a "strong Japan" and put an end to the nation's revolving-door politics, which has seen the prime minister change about once a year?

If the public's high hopes turn into disappointment, the Abe Cabinet is expected to face a strict verdict in the House of Councillors election scheduled for July. The prime minister must produce results swiftly.


End practice of handouts

Referring to 2013 as the Year of the Snake, Abe said at his first press conference Friday: "The snake symbolizes prosperous business. I'll work hard for the nation so we can take a big step forward toward boosting and reviving the economy."

His government plans to draw up emergency economic measures and submit a large-scale supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 to the Diet. It has also said it intends to work out bold monetary measures in cooperation with the Bank of Japan.

First of all, the government needs to put the teetering economy on a recovery track.

It reportedly aims to decide on a draft budget for next fiscal year by late this month. It must ensure smooth Diet deliberations and prevent delays in implementing the budget. We want the government and ruling parties to make every effort to pass the budget early.

Meanwhile, the Abe administration has announced in rapid succession a series of policy changes. They include dropping an income guarantee for individual farming households and a review of a program to end tuition for high schools. Both are key measures of the Democratic Party of Japan. We regard the new administration's decision to correct such handout measures as reasonable.

However, it would be problematic if the Abe administration continued handout policies in different forms. It is vital for the government to recreate a growth strategy to boost the nation's industrial competitiveness.

Taro Aso, deputy prime minister and finance minister, has indicated the new government has no intention to stick to the 44 trillion yen cap on new bond issuance set under the DPJ-led government. However, he should not forget the government needs to balance its policy measures with fiscal discipline.


Focus on electoral system reform

During the ordinary Diet session that will start late this month, the Abe administration will be tested on its ability to manage the Diet, which will continue to be divided at least until the July upper house election. The government and ruling parties should focus on passing legislation by trying to form alliances with opposition parties on a policy-by-policy basis.

One task that cannot wait is reform of the electoral system of the House of Representatives.

The Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the DPJ have agreed to discuss drastic reform, including a reduction in the number of lower house seats. With regard to the current system that combines single-seat constituencies and proportional representation blocs, many problems have been pointed out, such as the huge gap between votes and seats won. These problems tend to destabilize politics.

Political parties should start to discuss as quickly as possible how to improve the current electoral system.

If they cannot discuss the issue because of partisan interests involved in the electoral system, we propose a forum be established for experts to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, the Abe administration faces many pending issues that require coordination within the LDP, between the ruling and opposition parties or with local governments.

One of the issues is participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.

The LDP is divided over participation in the TPP talks due to strong opposition from agricultural organizations. With this in mind, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said, "We have to decide some kind of party policy [on the TPP issue] before the House of Councillors election."

However, it will be too late if the LDP does not take the issue seriously, saying only it must come up with a policy "before the upper house election." It is urgent for the LDP to coordinate opinions within the party with the aim of joining the TPP talks.

Japan will not get anywhere unless it sits down at the negotiating table with the 11 countries that will participate in the TPP. The government should exercise its negotiation ability and promote the creation of trade rules that will serve the national interests.

For economic growth, it is indispensable to restart idled nuclear reactors once they have been confirmed to be safe. The Abe administration must clear many hurdles such as persuading local governments hosting nuclear power plants.

If the ruling parties win a majority in the upper house election, an environment will be created in which they can take their time to face such issues as constitutional revisions and exercising the right to collective self-defense. At that time, the LDP's ability to coordinate opinions with Komeito will be put to the test again.


Coordination with Komeito key

In spring last year, the LDP compiled a second draft of its proposed constitutional revisions. Almost all LDP members are in step as far as exercising of the right to collective self-defense is concerned. Komeito remains cautious about both issues.

However, the security environment surrounding Japan has been drastically changing. China has intruded into not only the territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands but also the airspace above them. North Korea successfully launched a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. We must not look away from these crises.

The Constitution, which cannot deal with the ever-changing situations at home and abroad, needs to be revised. Also, it is quite right to take measures to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The Abe administration must maintain the political power to boldly tackle constitutional revisions and exercising the right to collective self-defense.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 5, 2013)
(2013年1月5日01時46分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 5日 (土)

試練の世界経済 欧州危機の収束はまだ途上だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 5, 2013)
Deeper EU integration needed as European crisis drags on
試練の世界経済 欧州危機の収束はまだ途上だ(1月4日付・読売社説)


Europe's protracted fiscal and financial crises appear to have escaped their worst phases, but there is no knowing what lies ahead. Indications are that difficult times for the world economy will most likely continue this year as well.

The European crisis must be overcome by every possible means, to enable the global economy to get on track for a full-fledged recovery.

The World Economic Outlook released last autumn by the International Monetary Fund reduced its world growth forecast for 2013 to 3.6 percent after inflation, and it seems the pace of the recovery in the world economy will remain sluggish.

The biggest factor behind this is that growth in the eurozone will likely be a meager 0.2 percent from the year before, meaning growth will be close to zero. Some observers even say Europe's growth may fall below zero for the second consecutive year.


Break the negative chain

The European crisis, which has lasted for more than three years, has had a harmful influence on the economies of Japan, the United States and other countries, while slowing growth in newly emerging economies, too, as shown by conspicuous declines in China's exports to Europe.

As long as these negative chain reactions continue, there can be no prospects for the world economy to regain its buoyancy.

It was a welcome development that the European Central Bank and the European Union beefed up steps, though belatedly, to contain the crisis from last autumn through the year-end.

The ECB has decided to employ the extraordinary measure of purchasing government bonds of crisis-stricken countries without limitations, in addition to a bold monetary easing policy.

As a permanent safety net for extending assistance to crisis-ridden nations, the European Stabilization Mechanism has been launched. On top of this, an additional bailout package for Greece has also been put in place.

It is highly commendable that Europe's credit unrest has eased and the market has begun to regain stability.


Still many things to do

Optimism that the eurozone crises have ended, however, should not be allowed.

For one thing, Greece has yet to emerge from a serious recession. The path to slashing its government debts as planned is very treacherous.

In Spain, the bursting of a property bubble has caused banks to suffer from a mountain of nonperforming loans, while government finances have kept deteriorating. It is problematic that the Spanish government is still hesitant about whether to officially request assistance from the EU.

As Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has expressed his intention to step down, a general election scheduled for February may be turbulent.

Under the circumstances, every European country must avoid the folly of easing measures to cope with the crisis. In order not to rekindle the crisis, steady, continuous efforts should be made to rebuild government finances. At the same time, policies should be implemented to place priority on reinvigorating business activities by making the most of the framework for extending assistance to countries in trouble.

Efforts to deepen the integration of the eurozone must continue in order to solve its structural problem of having a single currency but different fiscal policies among member countries.

A policy to unify banking supervision in the region has been decided. However, concrete measures for fiscal integration have been postponed. The key to the issue is what Germany decides.

Within the European economic giant, there is strong opposition to giving further assistance to southern European nations struggling with fiscal crises and fiscal integration.

Germany's general election in autumn this year will be a focal point for whether the eurozone can deepen its integration.


Fiscal cliff avoided

For U.S. President Barack Obama, whose second term in office is to start soon, fiscal rehabilitation and economic revitalization will continue to be weighty pending issues.


Negotiations between Obama and congressional leaders to avoid the fiscal cliff, a term describing the expiration of major tax cuts and large automatic spending cuts, went into the New Year. However, they finally reached an agreement on an extension of tax cuts for middle-class earners and a tax increase for the rich.

Avoiding falling off the cliff brought relief to financial markets. However, there are many issues still pending, such as drastic fiscal rehabilitation measures and an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling--the quota for issuing U.S. government bonds.

As the confrontation between Obama and Congress is still dragging on, there will probably be twists and turns ahead.

The U.S. economy has been on a moderate recovery path with the housing market picking up. However, the unemployment rate is still hovering at a high level of just under 8 percent, and thus it is still difficult to find jobs.

In a rare move, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board has decided to keep interest rates near zero until the jobless rate is stabilized at 6.5 percent or below. We hope the U.S. government and the FRB will strengthen their cooperation to improve employment and realize a powerful U.S. economy.

Expectations are running high for the "shale gas revolution," development of the nontraditional natural gas that has been going on in North America. When shale gas is used on a regular basis, the U.S. manufacturing industry likely will revive, making U.S. industries more competitive.


Stabilizing Japan-China relations

In China, where real economic growth for 2012 is suspected to have gone below the 8 percent target linked to sustaining sufficient employment levels, the pace for economic recovery is slow. Economic growth in China this year is expected to stay around 8 percent.

After the Lehman Brothers shock in autumn 2008, the Chinese government realized a V-shaped recovery leveraged by large-scale economic stimulus measures, serving as a locomotive for the global economy.

However, there are no signs that China will come up with similar large-scale economic measures this time.

A key issue for China is transition from an economy excessively dependent on exports to one led by domestic demand such as individual consumption.

If Japan-China relations get chillier, due to intensification of the confrontation between the two countries over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japanese companies will stop investing in China, an outcome that would also seriously affect the Chinese economy. Chinese leaders must recognize anew the importance of stabilizing bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 4, 2013)
(2013年1月4日01時20分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 4日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 3
EDITORIAL: A letter to high school students

To the 214 first-year students at Kagawa Prefectural Takamatsu-Kougei High School:

Thank you for writing essays on our editorial about the issue of integrated tax and social security reform in Contemporary Social Studies classes.

The editorial titled "Do adults understand?" was published on Dec. 28, 2011. It was written from the point of view of a member of a future generation who was lamenting the fact that their generation would be forced to pay for the huge debt the Japanese government had piled up to finance its spending.

When we responded to your essays on the article, you all again took the trouble of writing what you felt. We were very happy because we found in this correspondence great hope for the future of this country.


One of you wrote, "It is important for us all to think about 'what today's adults have failed to do' instead of simply complaining about their selfishness."

What is it exactly that today's adults have failed to do?

Sociologist Shinji Miyadai offers good insight into this question.

"Japan is a society where people complain and leave matters to others, not a society where people take on matters and think about them," he writes.

Here are some typical examples of how Japanese tend to think:

* It is the responsibility of bureaucrats and politicians to make policy decisions on such difficult issues as social security and tax. All we ordinary people can do is gripe about how things stand.

* We left the problem for politicians to handle when we cast our ballots at the polls. In the end, people in power will work things out, right?

For many years in Japan, the amount of money the government spends and distributes has been bigger than the amount of money collected by the government through taxes. To make up the difference, the government has been piling up more and more debt.

Obviously, however, the government cannot continue running up debt forever. But it is not easy to increase taxes, either, whether the consumption tax or other levies.

Meanwhile, the number of elderly people who need social security services like nursing care and pensions continues to grow at an alarming pace.

It seems that we can no longer afford to leave this important problem for people in power to deal with. As a first step toward abandoning this attitude, let us learn how the social security system works.


When you look around you, don't you find that there is a growing number of lonely people in your neighborhood?

Take old people, for instance. As they grow physically weaker, they find it increasingly difficult to go out. They also feel sad as their memory dims, making it harder for them to keep following what is happening around them.

Young people who have quit their jobs or left school usually see their circles of acquaintances shrink, and those who have withdrawn from society after being bullied at school must endure solitude.

Parents of young children feel lonely and frustrated if they have to spend all of their time at home with their children.

The most unfortunate thing that can happen to a person is probably to become isolated from society. It is, therefore, vital to help people avoid such a situation by building ties with others.
 人とのつながりがなくなるのが一番、不幸せじゃないかな。 そこをなんとかする。人と人のつながりをつくっていく。

Your writings included some heartening comments on this problem.

One of you wrote, "Such simple things will help. I can probably do them in my daily life." Another said, "I think more people will become happy if we fix the problems one by one." "I have realized that my surroundings are also part of the country," commented a third.

The spirit of mutual aid and support expressed in these remarks is the very foundation of social security.

If we understand the importance of mutual aid and support, we should first do what we can do immediately, either on our own or together with our neighbors. Then, we need to contribute money to pay for the professional medical and nursing-care services that some people need.

But people generally develop a tendency to think from a standpoint of profits and losses as they grow older.

Many adults say they are having a hard time trying to make ends meet and demand that people in better financial conditions pay for social security. Others say they deserve to receive more aid because they are so badly off. Still others argue that people should not be given a "free ride" under the system of mutual support.

There are various conflicting opinions on social security issues, and it is difficult to find solutions acceptable to a majority of people.


"Politicians who appear on TV don't listen to what others say at all once they start stating their own opinion," one of you wrote. That's exactly true and unfortunately so because working out compromises between people with conflicting opinions and interests is what politics is all about.

Some politicians promise to improve the social security system without increasing the financial burden on the public.

But there can never be such a magic solution to the problem.

The only effective way for us to tackle the problem is to stop leaving the work to politicians and bureaucrats and start considering and discussing it as our own challenge. We may have to set aside our wishes and opinions in consideration of others from time to time.

We also need people who listen carefully to what others say and carry out what they can do quietly.

"I'm not good at making arguments and usually do nothing but listen to other people's opinions. But it seems that I have to express my opinions on important issues," one of you wrote.

That's right. We urge you to pluck up your courage and voice your opinions on issues that you think are important.

Everybody has a role to play. If we roll up our shirt sleeves and get down to tackling the situation, we will probably be able to work out solutions to the problems through constructive discussions.

"I don't think there are any politicians who are trying to make things worse," one of you said.

That's also true. You should act on this belief and start by doing what you can do.

If you become voters who recognize the power and importance of mutual support among members of society, politics of this nation will no doubt begin to move in the right direction. That's because politics mirrors what is happening around us.

We have high expectations of all of you.

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Another Attempt to Deny Japan’s History


cite from Newyork Times Editorial

Another Attempt to Deny Japan’s History
Published: January 2, 2013

Few relationships are as important to stability in Asia as the one between Japan and South Korea. Yet Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, seems inclined to start his tenure with a serious mistake that would inflame tensions with South Korea and make cooperation harder. He has signaled that he might seek to revise Japan’s apologies for its World War II aggression, including one for using Koreans and other women as sex slaves.

In 1993, Japan finally acknowledged that the Japanese military had raped and enslaved thousands of Asian and European women in army brothels, and offered its first full apology for those atrocities. A broader apology by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 conceded that “through its colonial rule and invasion,” Japan had caused “tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

In an interview with the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, Mr. Abe, a right-wing nationalist, was quoted by Reuters on Monday as saying he wants to replace the 1995 apology with an unspecified “forward looking statement.” He said that his previous administration, in 2006-7, had found no evidence that the women who served as sex slaves to Japan’s wartime military had, in fact, been coerced. However, at a news conference last week, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said that Mr. Abe would uphold the 1995 apology but hinted he may revise the 1993 statement.

It is not clear how Mr. Abe, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, might modify the apologies, but he has previously made no secret of his desire to rewrite his country’s wartime history. Any attempt to deny the crimes and dilute the apologies will outrage South Korea, as well as China and the Philippines, which suffered under Japan’s brutal wartime rule.

Mr. Abe’s shameful impulses could threaten critical cooperation in the region on issues like North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Such revisionism is an embarrassment to a country that should be focused on improving its long-stagnant economy, not whitewashing the past.

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習政権と日本 戦略的外交で「互損」の脱却を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 4, 2013)
Strategic approach important to deal with aggressive China
習政権と日本 戦略的外交で「互損」の脱却を(1月3日付・読売社説)


China's policy of avidly increasing its national prosperity and military strength is destabilizing East Asia. However, the existence of China as a giant yet expanding market is also vital for Japan's economic growth.

The mission of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration will be to implement its foreign policy in a strategic manner. The administration needs to increase pressure on China to check the nation's expansionism, but at the same time tenaciously persuade its Asian neighbor to engage in international cooperation.

In November, Xi Jinping became the head of the Chinese Communist Party by assuming the post of general secretary. Xi, who also heads the military, is scheduled to become president during the National People's Congress in March.


The Xi administration's top concern is to maintain the Communist Party's sole grip on power. The key to achieving this goal is securing sustainable economic growth.

However, a mountain of problems lies ahead of the administration.


Xi faced with internal problems

It has become difficult for China to sustain the high level of growth the nation had enjoyed, so public anger regarding the nation's chronic problems--such as serious income disparities, a corrupt bureaucracy, an unfair judicial system and environmental pollution--is primed to explode. Violent demonstrations are occurring frequently across the nation. The scale of the demonstrations is growing, and their actions are becoming more destructive.

Xi, the son of a former deputy prime minster, is known as the leader of the so-called princelings, the influential offspring of high-ranking party officials. It seems unlikely he will be bold enough to act against the vested interests of the privileged classes by carrying out drastic reforms to rectify income disparities and other problems. Xi's hard-line diplomacy is a reflection of the unstable internal domestic situation.

Since launching his administration, Xi has touted the slogan "great renewal of the Chinese nation." Though once a great empire, China could not stop the world powers from invading during the closing years of the Qing dynasty, partly due to its neglect of maritime interests. Xi's slogan is believed to reflect China's modern history of humiliation.

Xi expressed his policy of expanding China's military capability when he inspected military troops in December. He said the nation's dream of "great renewal" means a dream of becoming "a great power" and possessing "a strong military."

In a recent report, Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies said cooperation between China's military and marine authorities is deepening.
"If countries around China send their militaries to protect their [maritime] interests, it is likely Chinese forces will be dispatched," the institute said in the report.


China's maritime ambitions

China has surpassed Japan in gross domestic product, and is now chasing the world's largest economy, the United States. For China, a prerequisite to obtaining the status of a world superpower is to first become a major maritime power.

Backed by massive military forces, China will likely strengthen its policy of aggressively pursuing its maritime interests, such as resources and sea lanes.

The situation is extremely volatile, with China taking a hard-line stance supported by the nationalism that is growing as the country becomes a major economic power. China is likely to assert its presence more aggressively in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The U.S. strategy of attaching greater importance to Asia is aimed at putting a brake on such attempts by China.

Japan should establish a long-term framework to allow authorities to do everything they can when conducting patrol and surveillance activities for the waters and airspace around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It is reasonable for Abe to regard Japan-China relations as "the biggest issue in the nation's foreign and security policy in the 21st century" and advocate the necessity of establishing strategic diplomacy in cooperation with other concerned countries.


Deterrence should be upgraded

It is most important for Japan to call on China to exercise self-restraint, in cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, India, Australia and other nations, while at the same time making the Japan-U.S. alliance much stronger.

Japan-China ties today are the most strained since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1972, and this situation has seriously affected the Japanese public's sentiment toward the neighboring country.
A public opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet Office last autumn found that a record 80 percent of Japanese "do not feel close to China."

China, which publicly claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, has been dispatching ships and aircraft to intrude into the Japanese waters and airspace around the islets.

It is against international law for China to try to forcibly and unilaterally change the status quo regarding the Senkaku Islands, which Japan effectively controls. Japan should present China's false and improper actions and demonstrate the legitimacy of Japan's territorial claim to the islands to the international community.

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act confirming that the Senkaku Islands are subject to Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty obliging the United States to defend Japan in case of hostilities.
This should serve as a significant deterrent against China.

Japan's participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade framework also could help keep China's influence from ballooning.

It is important to include China in an economic partnership framework for the Asia-Pacific region in the future.

China's recent boycott against Japanese goods has dampened investment sentiment in Japan toward that country.

More and more Japanese companies are seeking to do business in countries other than China, as it has been losing its advantages as a manufacturing base.

China should be aware that the boycott has damaged not only the Japanese economy but also its own.

Japan and China have to resume exchanges between their leaders. It is important for the two countries to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests by separating the Senkaku dispute from other political, economic and cultural ties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 3, 2013)
(2013年1月3日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 3日 (木)

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社会保障政策 全世代で応分の負担が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 3, 2013)
Sustaining social security system requires all generations to chip in
社会保障政策 全世代で応分の負担が必要だ(12月31日付・読売社説)

Japan's rapidly aging population and chronically low birthrate have cast a dark shadow on the nation's social security system--it has become unclear whether pension, health care, elderly care and other services can be maintained in the future.

Due to anxiety about the future, the public has become caught up in a mentality to curb spending and increase savings, which has been one reason for the economic slump. We urge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet to speed up their efforts to rebuild public trust in the social security system.

The Cabinet must give top priority to steadily implementing integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, centering on raising the consumption tax rate. Additional tax revenues will become a funding source for basic pension payments, health care and other welfare services. It will be a major step toward maintaining the social security system.


However, it is obvious that such reform--although necessary--is not sufficient to resolve the problem. It will be crucial to implement steps to turn around the low birthrate as a part of long-term reform based on a farsighted viewpoint.


Spend more on children

Japan's social security programs have so far provided solid services to the elderly, such as substantial pension payments. On the other hand, measures to tackle the low birthrate have been poor.

The state coffers are expected to collect an additional 13.5 trillion yen due to the consumption tax increase, and under the integrated reform, 700 billion yen will be used to support child-rearing. However, the money to be spent on child-rearing is nowhere near what was spent by France, Sweden and other nations that successfully conquered their own low birthrate problems.

Japan's most recent total fertility rate--the average number of children each woman has in her lifetime--was 1.39, one of the lowest among advanced nations. Due to the low birthrate, the nation's population is expected to drop by more than 30 percent over the next 50 years, and by about two-thirds in 100 years.

If the government is unable to increase the birthrate, the labor force will drop significantly. As a result, the working generation will have to bear a heavier burden to keep social security programs running. It also will hurt economic growth and diminish social vitality.

Many women are still forced to quit their jobs when they have babies. This situation must be changed. Concern about losing their jobs has become one reason some women hesitate to have children. The government must urgently create an environment in which women can work without anxieties, such as by boosting child care services and increasing income compensation for women taking child care leave.

During a recent press conference, Abe said one of his administration's tasks is to make Japan a nation where more women can have successful careers and feel comfortable having and raising children. During the administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan, 10 politicians held the post of state minister for measures for the declining birthrate in three years and three months. We urge the Abe administration to learn from this awful example and powerfully promote measures to rectify the low birthrate.


Help nonregular workers

The increase in nonregular workers has also become another problem for social security. The ranks of nonregular workers, such as part-time and temporary workers, recently exceeded 18 million--35 percent of the total workforce.

Many businesses do not apply social insurance programs--such as pension, medical and employment insurance--to their nonregular employees. The increase in the number of workers not obliged to pay social insurance premiums undermines the foundation of the social security system that is sustained by these premiums.

There is wide concern these nonregular workers will face severe lifestyle constraints if they lose their jobs or become ill, and will end up being entitled to only a small pension--or no pension at all.

Nonregular workers are more likely to be axed first in corporate restructuring. Many find it difficult to get married due to financial reasons. The proportion of married nonregular workers in their 30s is about half that of regular employees in the same age bracket. This causes a vicious circle that accelerates the decline in the birthrate.

Expanding employee pension plans and social insurance programs to nonregular workers and correcting the gap in wages between regular and nonregular workers are major challenges.

At a news conference after his recent appointment as health, labor and welfare minister, Norihisa Tamura said his ministry "will also deal with the employment issue wholeheartedly" to revitalize the economy. This is a reasonable statement. We hope the labor ministry will knuckle down to the task of improving the treatment of nonregular workers.


Bearing appropriate burdens

To ensure the social security system is sustainable, every member of the population--young and old, regardless of generation--will need to bear a burden commensurate with their financial abilities. In particular need of an overhaul is the pension system.

Tax deductions from public pensions are considerable, so pensioners pay far less tax than do employees whose income is around the same as that of pensioners. It will be necessary to rectify this gap by strengthening taxation on pensioners.

This is not the sole problem. Patients aged 70 to 74 have been temporarily allowed to pay 10 percent of their medical bills from their own pocket, instead of the legally set rate of 20 percent. As a consequence, the proportion of income people in this age bracket use for medical expenses is smaller than that used by people in age groups on either side of them. We think the burden should be raised to 20 percent for people in the 70-74 bracket, as is legally provided for.


Under the current nursing care insurance system, service recipients who need only relatively little help pay 10 percent of the costs--the same level as people requiring a higher level of assistance. Consideration must be given to raising the rate shouldered by the former.

Cuts in pension benefits will be unavoidable.

A system was introduced in 2004 to keep the growth rates for public pensions below those for wages and prices. But the system has never been enforced. It should be implemented as early as possible.

In reality, however, there are large income gaps among pensioners, and many of them rely on basic pension benefits for living expenses. So when the consumption tax rate is raised, it will be crucial to implement measures for low-income earners, such as introducing lower rates for daily living necessities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 31, 2012)
(2012年12月31日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2013年1月 2日 (水)

社説:2013年を展望する 骨太の互恵精神育てよ

January 01, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Japan's 2013 to be shaped by power of its economy, power of peace
社説:2013年を展望する 骨太の互恵精神育てよ

2013 will be a year of new approaches for Japan, and we believe the nation's new ways of being will come in two facets.

The first: Japan's latent economic power. Economic policy will grapple with ways to enlarge the economic pie, and then decide how that pie will be sliced.

The previous Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration put the most emphasis on the latter half of that equation, distributing generous support to young people and those in agriculture in the form of child allowances, free high school tuition, and farming household subsidies.

The newly minted Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-led administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the other hand, is intensely focused on the size of the pie, championing sweeping monetary easing and public investment under the name of breaking away from deflation.


Of course, just about everyone ought to be happier if there's more pie to go around, and here at the outset we have no intention of speaking ill of the idea.

However, we must point out that it's not as if preceding administrations have done nothing towards that goal in the 20 plus years since the economic bubble burst.
They pushed zero interest rates, went ahead with major monetary easing measures of their own, and poured money into mostly public works projects as emergency economic measures on numerous occasions.

In the end, quite similar strategies were piled one atop the other, amassing a quadrillion yen national debt in the process.

Behind Japan's lack of growth are its low birthrate and aging population, the rise of emerging economies, and environmental limitations on our supply and use of energy and resources. These are all structural causes, and we want to see the Abe administration tackle them head-on.

Japan's population is greying at the fastest rate in the world, and already one in four Japanese is 65 or older. This fact makes a well-considered and solid plan to deal with the aging society especially important.

Furthermore, to create an environment where young people are confident they have the financial wherewithal to have and raise children of their own, we believe it's time that a part of our limited economic pie -- employment and income -- be shifted to those young people from the older, wealthier segment of society.

What we'd like people to bear in mind here is the importance of mutual concessions and reciprocity.

We need to think that, in yielding to another, we ourselves are blessed and enriched. We also need to make this a mutual process, repeated many times.

To make use of Japan's young people to the full extent of their abilities will in turn revitalize all of society, the benefits of which will flow back to the elderly.

Even if the economic pie does not grow, can we not create such a positive redistribution cycle?

To that end, we'd like to see some of the DPJ's policies that never got off the ground pushed forward by the new administration.

As Japan has held to its postwar focus on light armament and economy-first policy, its economy has managed to survive the calamities of the currency crisis, the oil shock and the end of the bubble economy.

Now is the time to use the economic potential so evident in this resilience to shift gears, to deal with the mature economy that Japan enjoys.

The spirit of reciprocity must not only be applied to intergenerational relations, but to foreign relations as well.

The second facet of Japan's new way of life in 2013 lies here, in the power of peace bound up in a national government that has never pursued war.

The greatest issue facing Japanese diplomacy is how to deal with the rising power of China.

There is talk in international circles that Chinese incursions into Japanese territorial waters and airspace over the Senkaku Islands dispute could lead to an armed clash.

As a country that hasn't fired a shot in anger in some 67 years, all Japanese must now reconfirm the peace power of our nation and discuss how we can avoid Japan-China relations from worsening.

Japanese postwar pacifism is built on two main premises: a vow grounded in reflection on World War II to never again launch a war of aggression, and on the deterrent embodied in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Japan strives to solve all its international disputes through dialogue.

Of course for the sake of deterring potential enemies, Japan must prepare itself militarily.

For this reason, we must reconfirm the meaning and the function of the security treaty.

On top of this, we believe it important to study the history of the 1920s.


The Taisho period (1912-1926) saw the formation of two major political parties, and the national discourse rang with the voices of democracy.

In the end, however, party politics couldn't protect the peace.

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 combined with a global financial crisis sent the Japanese economy into turmoil. Calls for imperial expansion on the Asian continent intensified, and bellicose, xenophobic hardliners drowned out the good sense of those calling for international cooperation and compromise. Militarism took over, and in the name of supporting Imperial rule, the government led our nation into reckless war.

What our very own history teaches us is that when two countries cannot compromise over a territorial or sovereignty dispute, useless escalation follows.

We believe Japan must discard cheap anti-foreign sentiment and seek big-picture international cooperation.

Japan is doing its best now to deal with the Senkaku dispute with China through dialogue based on legal principles. China, meanwhile, which had it examined the history of the Senkaku dispute ought to have shelved its claims to the islands, is obviously trying to change the present reality with a show of sheer power.

Japan must explain carefully and persistently what's going on to the world and to Asian nations in particular, and thereby make friends and allies in its confrontation with China. We should not end up alone in this.

With China itself, we must constantly reassert the merits of the strategic partnership of mutual benefit.

First of all, Japan must tolerate the tension involved in dispensing with any hardline talk and sticking to the status quo.

A chance for compromise will emerge from therein.

If, for example, China stopped sending government ships to the waters around the Senkakus; if Japan admitted that the islands dispute was in fact a diplomatic issue, then the parties could finally sit at a table and talk about it.

We'd like to see leaders from both China and Japan show resourcefulness and courage.

Distributing the economic pie and the continuation of peace in East Asia -- for these things we call for a spirit of reciprocity that will make this era one of conciliation.

If we look back on all the steps we've taken since the end of World War II, we have built up all the power we need to respond to the demands of the postwar era.

While it is undoubtedly the politicians who will have to work the hardest to put that power to use, we would like all Japanese citizens to remember once more that their jobs are given to them by us.

毎日新聞 2013年01月01日 02時30分

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2013年1月 1日 (火)


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 1, 2013)
Regain national strength through political stability
政治の安定で国力を取り戻せ (1月1日付・読売社説)


Japan stands at a crossroads of whether it can maintain its national strength and retain its status as a major power.

National strength is the total power of a country, comprising such elements as economic and military might, and technological prowess. The primary task of the administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to maintain and enhance Japan's strength through political stability.

Boosting national strength will lead to improved social security systems, including pension and health care programs, and reinforce national security policy. That will also shore up disaster management measures and solidify social infrastructure, while accelerating reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Political stability is also important for Japan to regain its voice and presence in the international community.

As former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama created strains in the Japan-U.S. alliance while he was in office, Japan's relations with China, South Korea and Russia also deteriorated. Reorganizing the nation's diplomatic strategy is a matter of urgency.


Upper house poll a key moment

The Abe administration's biggest political objective this year is for the Liberal Democratic Party he leads and its coalition partner, New Komeito, to win a majority in the House of Councillors election scheduled for this summer, thereby bringing an end to the divided Diet.

Depending on the outcome of the election, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party might join the ruling coalition. But this will be premised on the assumption that it will add stability to the administration.

If Abe's administration retains a majority in the upper house, the nation's political arena will enter a "stable phase," as there will be up to three years before the next national election is to be held, and more than two years before the next LDP presidential election.

This will make it possible for the administration to tackle its major political agenda and pending policy issues without being tripped up by resorting to populism.

For instance, the administration will be able to propose the enactment of a "Basic Law on National Security" that would enable the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense, although the LDP will need to coordinate views with Komeito on this issue.

It is crucial for the government to approve the use of the right to collective self-defense and to reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance so it can deal better with the nuclear and missile development of North Korea, and tensions that have emerged with China since the government nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands last year.

We hope ruling and opposition parties hold thorough discussions and reach a common understanding on the issue.


Manage administration moderately

In last month's House of Representatives election, the LDP and Komeito together won more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower house. This will enable the coalition to have bills voted down in the upper house enacted by a second vote in the lower chamber.

The fact of the matter is that voters opted for stable politics and politics that can move forward, under the administration of the LDP and Komeito, both of which have extensive experience in managing the government.

Further political dithering can be averted now that the DPJ has been kicked out of power. In addition, it may be said that political instability that could have arisen if a strong third political party had joined a coalition government has been prevented.

The Democratic Party of Japan was demoted to an opposition party after suffering a crushing defeat in the general election, but it still has the second-largest number of seats in the lower house and remains a party with a plurality in the upper house. For the time being, the LDP-Komeito coalition government will need to obtain cooperation from the DPJ while exploring ways of forming a partial coalition involving third political forces.

The DPJ is expected to step up its confrontational stance toward the Abe administration in a bid to regain ground in the upper house election set for this summer.

In the 2007 upper house poll, the Abe-led LDP suffered a bitter defeat, handing the opposition camp control of the upper chamber and creating a divided Diet. Recent years have seen repeated cases of the party that won big in the lower house suffering a setback in the next upper house poll due to a swing in public support.

Abe must maintain disciplined management of his administration by diligently seeking to build consensus.

First and foremost, he must tackle the tasks of resuscitating Japan's economy and restoring economic growth.


3 core policy initiatives

With price increases being held to almost zero, the nominal growth domestic product that reflects more closely sentiment felt by households and businesses has declined by 40 trillion yen compared with five years ago. Consequently, the nation's economic size is stuck at about the same level as it was two decades ago.

All possible policies must be carried out to correct the super-strong yen and defeat deflation so the nation can achieve stable growth.

Abe said he will try to lift the country out of deflation by implementing three core policies--credit easing, fiscal stimulus and a growth strategy. His thinking is reasonable.

The yen has recently weakened against the dollar and stock prices have risen.

Setting a 2 percent inflation target, the prime minister has called for concluding a policy agreement between the government and the Bank of Japan to carry out drastic monetary easing. The central bank plans to set an inflation target this month. Stronger cooperation between the government and the central bank will be called for.

Masaaki Shirakawa's term as central bank governor will expire in April. Abe has expressed his intention to appoint as Shirakawa's successor a person who shares his policy of setting a 2 percent inflation target.

Appointment of the central bank governor requires Diet approval. Under the divided Diet, if Abe's appointee is rejected by the opposition-controlled upper house, the post could be left vacant. We urge the ruling and opposition parties to work together to avoid this possibility.

Fiscal action also is important. The government has been compiling a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 in parallel with the fiscal 2013 budget.

The government will decide in autumn whether to raise the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014, in line with integrated reform of the social security and tax systems.

One factor to be taken into account in making this decision will be GDP growth for the April-June quarter. Abe indicated the tax hike could be put off, depending on the GDP figure.

For the tax increase to be surely implemented, we hope the government takes all possible measures to defeat deflation and shore up the economy, by compiling a large supplementary budget worth about 10 trillion yen.

In the ordinary Diet session, the fiscal 2013 budget likely will be passed as late as sometime after the Golden Week holiday period in May. It will be inevitable to compile a stopgap budget. To ensure budgets can be seamlessly implemented, it is essential to create an environment in which ruling and opposition parties can cooperate.


Power rate hikes serious issue

To promote a growth strategy, the government needs a "control tower" with strong authority and coordination capabilities. We highly regard the prime minister's reinstatement of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and plan to integrate its functions with the newly established "headquarters for Japan's economic revitalization."

We want productivity in the private sector to be increased through deregulation in various fields and investment in such growth areas as the environment and medical and nursing care services.

Securing electricity cheaply and stably also is essential for growth.

Due to the DPJ's policy direction of weaning the nation off nuclear power, reactors at nuclear power plants, whose output accounted for 30 percent of the nation's power generation, were shut down one after another. Of the 50 commercial reactors in Japan, only two at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant are operating.

Thermal power generation has been ramped up to cover the severe electricity shortage. Imports of liquefied natural gas and other sources have surged, causing national wealth totaling about 3 trillion yen per year to flow out to countries that produce these energy sources. Many electricity utilities, including KEPCO, have fallen into the red and filed for approval to increase their rates.

The steel industry has estimated it would face additional burdens of more than 90 billion yen if electricity bills were raised by KEPCO and others. This would accelerate the hollowing out of Japan's industries and inevitably affect the people's daily lives, including employment.

We consider it necessary to restart idled nuclear reactors after their safety is confirmed under new safety guidelines to be established by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

In the latest lower house election, the LDP, which criticized the "zero-nuclear policy" as irresponsible, scored a landslide victory. Now, the Abe administration will be required to work out the best mix of power sources--including nuclear power--as soon as possible.

Excluding hydropower, renewable energy, such as solar power and wind power, currently accounts for only a little more than 1 percent of Japan's entire power generation. It is still premature to expect renewable energy can be immediately used as a main power source that can replace nuclear power.

More than 100 trillion yen will need to be invested on steps to save energy and expand renewable energy. In reality, the public will be forced to shoulder this cost in the form of higher power bills and taxes.

The world will continue using nuclear power and building more reactors. China, in particular, has put more than 10 nuclear reactors into operation and plans to build at least 50 more.

It will be necessary for Japan to firmly maintain its nuclear technology, which is among the best in the world. Abe has expressed determination to build safe nuclear power plants. To secure and nurture talented human resources in this field, the nation should not exclude the option of building next-generation nuclear reactors.

From the standpoint of the country's growth, it will be desirable to promote exports of nuclear infrastructure.


TPP key to economic growth

Japan's nuclear power policy also will affect its defense capability, which centers on the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Under the Japan-U.S. nuclear power cooperation agreement, Japan is allowed to possess plutonium, which can be converted to nuclear weapons. But the principle to end the use of nuclear power, which was decided under the administration led by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, would mean that Japan will lose not only this privilege but also its status as a U.S. partner for promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power and nuclear nonproliferation.

The Abe administration has good reasons to review the country's nuclear and energy policy.

Generating sustainable growth will require harnessing demand from overseas nations such as those in Asia. As such, participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational free trade framework has been a pending issue since the DPJ-led government was in power.

Member nations of the TPP, which aims to promote free trade under U.S. initiatives, plan to conclude their negotiations by the end of this year. Japan must get involved in the process of drawing up rules on eliminating and reducing tariffs as well as trade and investment to reflect its national interests. We urge the prime minister to announce Japan will take a seat at the TPP talks as soon as possible.

By steadily working on these policy agendas for regaining Japan's national strength, the new administration will gradually be able to restore public trust in politics.

We hope this year will see Japan solidify its footing and become more assertive.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 1, 2013)
(2013年1月1日01時12分  読売新聞)

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