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2013年7月24日 (水)

安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 24, 2013
Abe administration must focus on economy to enhance nation’s power
安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ(7月23日付・読売社説)


The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must make all-out efforts to revitalize the national economy and concentrate on enhancing national power.

The administration has made a new start after the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito scored an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s House of Councillors election.

Abe met with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi Monday to confirm their policy of strengthening cooperation. It will be necessary for the two parties, which failed to put forth common campaign platforms for the upper house poll, to steadily promote coordination on various policies.


In a news conference on Monday, Abe stressed he would put utmost priority on economic policy, saying, “Ending 15 years of deflation will be a historic undertaking.”

The foundation for social security, diplomacy and security cannot be bolstered unless the country can regain a strong economy and national power. Revitalizing the national economy is a way of meeting the expectations the people expressed in the upper house election.

Sales tax hike key issue

The biggest focal point for the moment is whether the government will decide to raise the consumption tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April as scheduled.

Abe said he would make a prudent decision by autumn after analyzing such economic data as the real-term gross domestic product for the April-June quarter, which will be released on Aug. 12.

The economy has been picking up steadily due to the effect of Abenomics. But raising the consumption tax before a full-scale business recovery may affect the economy adversely. Some of the prime minister’s economic advisers have come out in favor of postponing a tax increase.

On the other hand, the nation’s fiscal condition is the worst among industrialized countries. Japan has made an international pledge to implement midterm fiscal reconstruction. The adverse effect of postponing a consumption tax increase on the government bond market is also a matter of concern.

In a recent Moscow meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 economies, Finance Miniser Taro Aso said the tax increase would be carried out as scheduled. Abe faces a hard policy decision on how to reach a balance between economic growth and fiscal reconstruction.

Discussions on the consumption tax hike will be also unavoidable from the standpoint of promoting reforms of the social security system. Based on conclusions of the national conference on social security reform to be announced in August, the government needs to set forth policies to curb medical bills and pension benefits, which have been burgeoning due to the graying of society, as well as concrete measures to deal with the declining birthrate.

The government is being put to the test over how to implement a growth strategy, the “third arrow” of Abenomics after bold monetary easing and fiscal stimulation.

Abe regards the autumn extraordinary Diet session as an opportunity to realize his administration’s growth strategy and is aiming for early passage of a bill to boost the competitiveness of the Japanese industry, including an investment tax cut to encourage businesses to make capital investment.

Boosting the vitality of Japanese companies could help realize a virtuous circle of wage hikes and an expansion of job opportunities.

In promoting the growth strategy, however, it is essential to secure a stable supply of electricity.

TPP talks in full swing

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has launched safety checks of nuclear power plants seeking to restart their idled reactors in line with new safety standards. To efficiently implement various kinds of safety checks, the safety examination system of the NRA should be reinforced.

Abe’s leadership is also needed to win the understanding of local governments and communities to resume the operations of nuclear plants.

The government should promote a realistic energy policy, while considering its impact on the economy, employment and the global environment.

Also important are the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which Japan will join for the first time on Tuesday. Japan should seize the opportunity to promote free trade and bring out the vitality of Asia.

Efforts must also be made to boost the international competitiveness of our agricultural sector in preparation for market liberalization.

On the diplomatic front, the biggest issue is how to improve bilateral relations with China.

Abe said, “The important thing is to have heart-to-heart talks with each other,” emphasizing the importance of dialogue. Also needed are persistent diplomatic efforts by both Japan and China to solve their differences.

China is still behaving provocatively by having its marine surveillance vessels sail around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. It was also recently learned that China is developing a new gas field near the median line between Japan and China in the East China Sea, which is escalating bilateral friction.

With China’s recent aggressive and intimidating actions and its military buildup, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development threats, Japan’s security environment has been deteriorating.

Review collective self-defense

It is only reasonable for the government to review its interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the use of the right to the collective self-defense, a pending issue for many years. Such a review would strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

An expert panel of the government will compile a new report on the issue by mid-October and is expected to propose that Japan should exercise its right to collective self-defense. Based on the proposal, the government should proceed to change its interpretation of the supreme law.

The nation’s security system needs to be strengthened by establishing the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, promoting the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago and compiling new National Defense Program Outlines.

The next national election is not scheduled for three years. It is crucial for Abe to proceed with diplomatic and security issues step by step, together with his economic policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2013)
(2013年7月23日01時31分  読売新聞)


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