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2013年10月23日 (水)

貿易赤字15か月 原発再稼働で早期に歯止めを

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 23, 2013
Restart nuclear reactors to help stem snowballing trade deficit
貿易赤字15か月 原発再稼働で早期に歯止めを(10月22日付・読売社説)

Japan’s trade deficit continues to grow unabated. If the nation’s wealth continues to pour out of the country, the path toward rejuvenation of Japan’s economy will become tougher.

The government must do everything in its power to enable Japan to rebuild itself as a trade-oriented nation.

Japan’s balance of trade, the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports, stood at ¥930 billion in the red in September. This marked the 15th consecutive month of a year-on-year increase in the trade deficit, surpassing the previous record of 14 straight months set 33 years ago at the time of the second oil crisis.

The trade deficit for the April-to-September first half of this fiscal year reached ¥4.9 trillion, a record for a fiscal half year.

The trade deficit has primarily stemmed from the sharp rise in Japan’s imports of fuel for thermal power plants, which are being used increasingly as an alternative power source for the nation’s idled nuclear power plants. The yen’s depreciation against the dollar in recent times has also been a factor in the deficit’s expansion.

Imports of liquefied natural gas, the main fuel used for power generation, have doubled compared with just before the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

According to a government estimate, additional fuel costs, including those of LNG and crude oil needed for thermal power generation due to the mothballing of nuclear reactors, is expected to total ¥9 trillion over the three fiscal years from 2011 to 2013.

This extraordinary situation in which a massive amount of money for fuel imports has flowed out of Japan and into resource-rich countries in the Middle East and elsewhere cannot simply be brushed off.

This country urgently needs to restart nuclear power plants that have been confirmed safe to operate, and lessen its excessive dependence on thermal power plants.

Give companies a hand

The rise in electricity rates stemming from higher fuel costs is also a serious issue. Within the service area of Tokyo Electric Power Co., electricity bills for an average-sized family have risen by about 30 percent compared with before the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster—an increase of nearly ¥1,800 a month.

The electricity rate for corporate users has risen by an even wider margin. This situation could accelerate the hollowing-out of industry as businesses shift production bases abroad to avoid rising operating costs at home. There also are fears that a vicious circle may develop in which Japan’s exports decline as a result of the hollowing-out of industry, pushing the trade deficit even higher.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated he plans to make Japan “the best country in the world for companies to do business,” by promoting his growth strategy, which includes deregulatory measures. To achieve this, it is essential to establish a system that guarantees a stable supply of cheap electricity.

It is worrisome that while imports of solar panels and smartphones from China have increased, Japan’s exports to newly emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere have remained sluggish.

The government should cut the effective corporate tax rate and help companies boost their international competitiveness. The public and private sectors also should unite in the promotion of infrastructure exports, including nuclear power plants and high-speed railway systems.

The bottom line is that private businesses produce attractive goods and services with their own originality and ingenuity. We hope they will rise to the challenge and emerge victorious in the international competition.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 22, 2013)
(2013年10月22日01時32分  読売新聞)


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