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2014年4月 2日 (水)

(社説)17年ぶり消費増税 改革の原点に立ち返れ

April 01, 2014
EDITORIAL: With new tax rate up and running, spending reform must be next step
Previous ArticleEDITORIAL: Japan loses credibility as corruption-tainted aid projects continue
(社説)17年ぶり消費増税 改革の原点に立ち返れ

The consumption tax rate went up from 5 percent to 8 percent on April 1.
 消費税率が、5%から8%に引き上げられた。

This is obviously a painful increase for the public. But given the fiscal deficits and debt morass that plague this nation, it was inevitable.
 国民にとっては、つらい負担増である。だが、借金漬けの日本の現状を考えれば、やむを得ない選択だ。

The question is whether political leaders are taking steps to make the pain bearable for the right reasons. Let us remember the reason the tax rate was hiked in the first place.
 問題は、その痛みに政治がきちんとこたえているかどうかである。消費増税の原点に返って考えたい。

BURDEN SHIFTED TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
 ■ツケ回しを減らそう

It is simply the key component of the government’s policy to reform the tax and social security systems in an integrated manner.
 消費増税は「社会保障と税の一体改革」の柱だ。

Social security spending, which accounts for more than 30 percent of the general-account budget, is partly financed by the issuance of government bonds because social insurance premiums and taxes do not cover the total outlay. In short, part of the burden of financing social security payouts for people living today is being shifted to future generations.
 国の一般会計予算の3割強を占める社会保障の財源は、保険料や税金だけでは足らず、国債の発行に頼っている。つまり、今の世代への給付を維持するために、将来世代にツケを回す構図である。

The proposed reform is designed to change this situation and secure long-term financial sustainability of the public pension system, along with the health and nursing-care insurance programs, while enhancing meager policy support for child-rearing families. The overhaul is aimed at re-energizing the economy by easing consumers’ concerns about their future and thereby stimulating their spending.
 それを改め、手薄な子育て支援策を充実させつつ、年金や医療・介護を安定させる。先々への安心感を高めることで消費を促し、経済の活性化にもつなげる狙いがある。

Under a policy initiative to achieve these goals, it was decided that the consumption tax rate will be raised to 10 percent in a two-stage hike. The next increase is slated for October 2015. The additional tax revenue will be used exclusively to fund social security spending.
 そうした考えから、国民が広く負担する消費税の税率を今回と15年10月の2段階で10%に上げ、増税分はすべて社会保障に使うことになった。

But not all the increase in tax receipts will go to improve social security benefits. Much of the money will be used to reduce the amount of new government bonds to be issued. The tax increase, however, will not be enough to make up the revenue shortfall as social security spending keeps rising due to the aging of the population.
 増収分がそっくりサービスの充実に充てられるのではなく、多くは国債の発行を減らすことに回される。それでも財源不足は解消せず、高齢化に従って社会保障費は増え続ける。

This is the grim reality facing Japan.
 日本の厳しい現実である。

What, then, can be done to prevent financial collapse?
 では、財政破綻(はたん)に陥らないために、どうすればいいのか。

Three things are essential. First, effective steps must be taken to lay the foundation for renewed economic growth, which would automatically bolster tax revenue. Secondly, the state budget needs to be seriously overhauled to ensure that the limited revenue is used as effectively as possible. Thirdly, the government should confront the need to implement more tax hikes.
 経済成長によって税収が自然に増える環境を整える▼限られた金額が有効に使われるよう、予算の見直しに取り組む▼増税から逃げない――この三つが欠かせない。

Especially important is the budget reform. Taxpayers will not support any proposal to raise taxes unless they are convinced the money they pay is used properly.
 とりわけカギを握るのは予算改革だろう。税金の使い道に納得感がなければ、国民は増税に反発するからだ。

SWELLING PUBLIC WORKS SPENDING
 ■膨らむ公共事業

But the Abe administration is showing no signs that it is seriously aware of the need to cut state finances.
 ところが、政権からは緊張感が一向に伝わってこない。

The administration compiled a supplementary budget worth 5.5 trillion yen ($53.3 billion) last fiscal year, aiming to alleviate the expected economic impact of the tax hike. The amount is even bigger than the estimated increase in tax revenue for the first year following the tax increase. Combined with the initial budget for the new fiscal year starting on April 1, which is the largest on record, the government’s total spending will top 100 trillion yen.
 消費増税をにらんだ昨年度の補正予算は5・5兆円に膨らんだ。初年度の増税分を上回る額だ。当初予算として過去最大となった今年度予算と合わせ、総額は100兆円を超す。

The figure is based on two separate spending plans for different fiscal years and should not be compared simply with a budget for a single year. But it is still worth pointing out that the amount is on a par with the bloated budgets formulated by the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party harshly criticized as a reckless spending spree.
 年度をまたぐため単純比較はできないが、自民党が「ばらまき」と批判していた民主党政権下の予算規模に肩を並べる。

There are many issues that should be dealt with to cushion the impact of the tax increase. The government, for instance, should take measures to lessen the “regressivity” of the consumption tax, which means the burden is heavier for people with less income.
 所得の少ない人ほど消費税の負担が重くなる「逆進性」への配慮など、欠かせない対策は少なくない。

But the Abe administration is ramping up the budget, claiming the tax increase create fresh room for spending growth or that public spending should be increased to prevent the economy from losing steam. The administration’s spending binge raises serious doubts about its commitment to the original purpose of integrated tax and social security reform.
 しかし、「増税で財源に余裕ができた」「景気の冷え込みを防ぐ」といって予算を膨らませていては、何のための一体改革なのか。

Symbolizing the administration’s willingness to pump up spending is its public works budget.
 象徴は、公共事業である。

Policymakers within the government and the ruling parties are clamoring for an expansion of public works spending. Proponents argue that it is urgently needed to repair aged infrastructure and improve the nation’s preparedness for natural disasters. They call for forward spending on public works to tackle these challenges and keep the economy on a recovery path. Some of them also claim public works spending should be increased if only to ease the negative effects of massive cuts made by the DPJ-led government.
 「老朽化したインフラや防災への対策は待ったなし。景気対策を兼ねて前倒しを」「民主党政権が大幅に削減したひずみをただすだけ」。こんな声が政府・与党にかまびすしい。

The administration appears to be bent on promoting public works projects without making any serious assessment of their cost effectiveness by waving the banner of disaster preparedness. It is hard to believe that the government is making serious efforts to consolidate existing public facilities while shifting the focus of its public works policy from new construction projects to measures to deal with the deterioration of existing facilities.
 「防災」を錦の御旗に、費用対効果の検証をおろそかにしたまま、建設ありきの対策を続けていないか。新設から老朽化対策へと軸足を移しつつ、既存の施設を集約する試みが徹底しているとはとても思えない。

In addition to projects to rebuild areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the government has also embarked on new public works projects to stoke economic growth and improve infrastructure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The expansion of infrastructure spending has triggered steep rises in the wages of construction workers and the prices of construction materials. There have been many cases where bidding for a public works contract failed to result in the selection of the contractor and forced the government to raise the bid ceiling. Rising construction costs inevitably lead to increases in both public spending and debt.
 東日本大震災の復興事業に、景気対策としての公共事業の積み増しや東京五輪の準備が加わって、現場では賃金や建設資材の高騰が深刻だ。入札の不調が相次ぎ、当初の予定価格を引き上げてやっと業者が決まる例も珍しくない。その分、税金が多く費やされ、借金は増える。

PUBLIC DEBT TRIPLED
 ■国債残高は3倍に

A study of past government attempts to improve their fiscal health found that successful efforts were focused more on spending cuts than on tax hikes.
 財政再建のために増税と歳出削減が実施されているが、成功したケースは歳出削減に重点を置いていた――。

The survey was conducted in the late 1990s by Alberto Alesina, a professor of political economy at Harvard University. Alesina wrote a paper on the study, which looked into various attempts for fiscal rehabilitation made by industrial nations since 1960 onward. In successful cases, the ratio between spending cuts and tax hikes was around 7 to 3.
 90年代後半、米ハーバード大のアルベルト・アレシナ教授らが60年以降の先進国の取り組みを調べ、こんな論文をまとめた。成功例では、歳出削減と増税の比率はおおむね7対3だったという。

Even though the study only covered a limited number of cases, it clearly supports the conventional wisdom that budget reforms and spending reductions are vital for fixing state finances. Given Japan’s woeful fiscal conditions, which are among the worst in the developed world, there is no choice for the government but to pursue simultaneously both tax increases and budget reforms.
 限られた事例の分析だが、予算の見直し・削減が財政再建に欠かせないことは常識だ。先進国の中で最悪の水準に落ち込んだわが国の財政難を考えれば、増税と予算改革を同時並行で進めるしか道はない。

In its campaign platform for the 2009 Lower House election, the DPJ, which came to power through the poll, promised to raise more than 10 trillion yen to finance its policy proposals through budget restructuring. But the party failed to deliver on the promise.
 民主党は、政権を獲得する09年の総選挙で、新たな政策の財源として既存の予算の組み替えで十数兆円を用意すると公約したが、実現できなかった。

Overhauling the budget for spending cuts cannot be done overnight. It requires scrutinizing individual policy programs and reducing the expenditures on surviving ones as much as possible. Only such low-profile, tenacious efforts can lead to real progress. The Abe administration is clearly moving in the opposite direction by taking advantage of the tax hike to increase government spending.
 見直しは一朝一夕にはできない。個々の政策を一つひとつ吟味し、継続する場合もできるだけ少ない金額でまかなう。
 そんな地道な作業を積み重ねるしかないのに、増税を理由に予算を膨らませるのでは、改革の方向が逆である。

Since the collapse of the asset-inflated economy in the early 1990s, the Japanese government has put together extra budgets almost every year to promote economic growth.
 90年代のバブル崩壊後、景気対策のために、毎年のように補正予算が編成された。

The total value of outstanding government bonds has tripled to 750 trillion yen since the last consumption tax increase 17 years ago. The overall government debt load, including borrowing, has surpassed 1,000 trillion yen.
 17年前の消費増税時と比べると、国債の発行残高は3倍の750兆円である。借り入れなどを加えた国の借金総額は1千兆円を超えた。

If it proceeds with the planned additional hike in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent, the government will have to push through a fundamental reform of the bloated budget for significant spending cuts.
 膨れあがった予算を抜本的に見直し、削減につなげる。それが、消費税率を10%に上げる前提である。

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 1
2014年4月1日05時00分

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