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2013年6月 7日 (金)

成長戦略 民間活力の爆発で日本再生を

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 7, 2013
Utilizing power of private sector key for 'third arrow' to hit target
成長戦略 民間活力の爆発で日本再生を(6月6日付・読売社説)


Will Abenomics really be able to boost the competitive power of domestic companies and rejuvenate Japan’s economy? Can Japan win in the global market? The true value of the Abe administration’s economic policies will be finally tested.

On Wednesday, the government’s Industrial Competitiveness Council finished compiling a draft of the administration’s growth policy, which is touted as the “third arrow” of Abenomics. Now almost all the elements of Abenomics have been revealed to the public.

On the same day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech on the growth strategy at a hotel in Tokyo, stipulating deregulation as the heart of his economic reforms. Abe expressed his resolve to rebuild the nation’s economy, citing the “eruption of the private sector’s vitality” as a key factor of his growth strategy.

In his speech, Abe also revealed the mid- and long-term goals of his economic policies, such as increasing per-capita gross national income by 1.5 million yen over the next decade.

Full picture of Abenomics

The growth strategy has three pillars: to restore the nation’s industries, strategically create new markets and help Japan’s businesses expand abroad. After Abe’s speech, the Tokyo Stock Exchange plunged due to criticism including the notion that the growth strategy lacked originality, but we believe the growth strategy is pointed in the right direction.

Regarding the goal of restoring the nation’s industries, the government will designate the next five years as an emergency period for structural reforms, focusing on measures such as utilizing the untapped potential of the female labor force and promoting private investment.

The centerpiece of the measures is a plan to create “national strategic special deregulation zones,” which Abe revealed Wednesday. The plan aims to create cosmopolitan cities that attract companies and talented workers from all over the world by boldly relaxing regulations in the special zones.

We urge the government to swiftly prepare concrete measures to materialize the plan, so Japan will become a country that provides the best working environment for companies.

Regarding the goal of strategically creating new markets, the government plans to find and nurture new business opportunities from problems facing Japan, such as the stagnant birthrate, graying of society and aging social infrastructure. It also targets the nation’s medical industry, which is lagging behind foreign competitors, and its agricultural industry, which suffers from low productivity. The agricultural industry has long been urged to enhance its international competitiveness.

On deregulation, the growth strategy includes a plan to lift a ban on the online sales of nonprescription drugs. The government also intends to expand the scope of so-called mixed treatments, a combination of medical practices covered in part by public health insurance and in part by patients, which is currently limited to exceptional cases. We believe these measures will lead to important progress.

Japan now faces many difficulties. But let’s turn misfortune into blessings by riding the wind of such deregulation measures and combining the wisdom and innovation of the government and the private sector.

Joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework will be the first step in promoting the overseas advancement of Japanese businesses. The government needs to work hard to make up for the lack of progress in commerce policies.

Japan’s domestic market has begun to shrink due to the declining population. In such a situation, it is essential for the nation to attract foreign demand to sustain economic growth by boosting infrastructure-related exports, such as nuclear power plants and Shinkansen bullet trains.

Beef up control tower functions

All the numerical targets Abe has revealed--including 70 trillion yen in private capital investment, 30 trillion yen in infrastructure exports and 35 trillion yen in direct investment to Japan by foreign companies--are ambitious and lofty goals.

His enthusiasm appears genuine, but such goals are meaningless if they end up as empty promises. The Abe administration must steadily carry out measures to achieve its goals and produce real results.

Achievements were made in less than 10 percent of the policy measures stipulated in the New Growth Strategy two years after it was adopted by the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan in June 2010. A well-detailed timetable that listed when each goal was to be achieved, for instance, was just window dressing.

The same mistake should not be made again. The management capabilities of the Prime Minister’s Office should be reinforced to block resistance from individual ministries and avoid jurisdictional disputes among ministries over deregulation measures.

Abe said his Cabinet will verify every year the level of achievement of each policy, based on new indicators. If a policy is found to be behind the timetable, the administration will not casually lower the target, but introduce additional measures to achieve the goal. We urge the administration to review the programs continually and improve its measures to achieve goals whenever necessary.

We are concerned, however, because many policy measures demanded by business circles were not included in the growth strategy.

For example, businesses sought a reduction in the corporate tax rate, which is higher than those of other major countries, and drastic agricultural reform, including lifting the ban on the possession of farmlands by corporations. However, these measures were shelved.

The House of Councillors election is just around the corner and a hike in the consumption tax rate is scheduled for April next year. In this situation, Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party probably wanted to avoid policies that could prove unpopular with voters.

However, to break the nation’s economic deadlock, the administration needs the determination to bravely challenge the barrier of vested interests. We hope the Abe administration will accelerate discussions on pending issues that it put off dealing with.

To improve the efficacy of the growth strategy, it is important for the Abe administration to improve individual policy measures as well as remove barriers to hamper the economic activities of the private sector.

Stable power supply essential

After the launch of the current Abe Cabinet, the hyper-appreciation of the yen that had afflicted the Japanese economy was corrected. However, many issues still remain unsolved.

The shortage of power is a particularly serious problem. As the fuel costs for thermal power stations snowball, national wealth continues to steadily flow out of the country and power rate hikes go on.

Electricity is the lifeblood of the economy. Unless the days of stable supply of inexpensive electric power return, it will be difficult to achieve stable growth in the economy.

In that sense, it is natural for the administration to have clarified in the growth strategy that the “entire government will make maximum efforts” to reactive idle nuclear reactors after their safety is confirmed.

The government must take the initiative to explain the necessity of this policy to local governments hosting nuclear power plants and make its utmost effort to realize a stable supply of electricity.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2013)
(2013年6月6日01時21分  読売新聞)


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