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2014年9月11日 (木)

経団連献金関与 企業の政治参加を促す契機に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Keidanren’s decision should boost firms’ participation in politics
経団連献金関与 企業の政治参加を促す契機に

The latest decision by the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) on political donations should serve as a trigger for increased cooperation between business and political circles — an important task for revitalizing our nation’s economy.

Keidanren has decided to resume its involvement in the contribution of funds from business corporations to political parties for the first time in five years. The nation’s largest economic organization is set to encourage its member corporations to make political donations at their own discretion.

The federation has also said it intends to reveal the results of its assessment of political parties’ policies, hoping to see its members use the assessment as a basis for decisions on political contributions.

“Business and political circles should join hands in rebuilding Japan,” Keidanren Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara said at a press conference.

His sentiment was echoed by Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party. Tanigaki commented on Keidanren’s latest move, saying the decision “probably shows [Keidanren’s belief] that, as part of their contribution to society, business corporations must fulfill their share of responsibility in the sound progress of democracy,” Tanigaki said.

Keidanren and the LDP are set to reopen a policy meeting of senior officials from both organizations.

It is highly significant for the corporate sector, a central player in economic activities, to play a role in this nation’s politics through legitimate donations given according to the rules.

Relations between Keidanren and the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have improved, as indicated by his government’s decision to appoint Sakakibara as a private-sector member of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. This is in contrast to the strained ties felt while Sakakibara’s predecessor, Hiromasa Yonekura, was in office.

There is reason to believe Keidanren’s latest decision is also aimed at making it easier for the opinions of the business community to be reflected in government policies.

During the post-World War II years, Keidanren continued to act as an intermediary in the donation of funds from the corporate sector to political parties. In conducting this task, the federation made arrangements regarding the amount of donations to be made by each business corporation and association. In 1994, however, Keidanren decided to stop playing its intermediary role, largely in the wake of a bribery scandal involving major construction companies and political circles.

Reliance on grants questionable

In 2004, Keidanren resumed involvement in this respect by encouraging business corporations to give political donations, using the results of its policy assessment as a yardstick to make decisions on such contributions. However, the economic association dropped its action after the opposition Democratic Party of Japan came into power in 2009.

All this has led to a sharp decrease in the amount of corporate donations to political parties. As circumstances stand today, corporate donations account for about 10 percent of the LDP head office’s annual income of ¥14 billion. Meanwhile, about 70 percent of the ruling party’s yearly income comes from government grants to political parties.

Some people within political circles have argued there is no need for political donations from the corporate sector. However, many questions can be raised about the excessive extent to which political parities rely on government grants to cover their operational expenses nowadays. It should be noted that such subsidies are derived from tax revenue, a resource subject to deliberations by the government, political parties and lawmakers regarding how the money should be used. Measures should be studied to increase the percentage of political donations by business corporations and private individuals vis-a-vis the total amount of political parties’ income.

It is disturbing to see the nature of Keidanren’s policy assessment remains ambiguously defined.

Sakakibara has said the policy assessment can be used as one yardstick to be adopted by each corporation in making decisions about its political donations. In the meantime, however, he explained the results of the policy assessment will not be directly linked to the corporate sector’s decision-making regarding its political donations.

Sakakibara’s comments may be regarded as an attempt to prevent critics from accusing Keidanren for “buying government policies with money.” Nonetheless, the thrust of his statement is difficult to understand. There is concern a number of corporations may be unsure about how to respond to his stance and, therefore, may hesitate to make donations.

Keidanren should be advised to make an intelligible assessment of each major political party’s policies by disclosing what kind of argument it has brought forward and whether it has striven to accomplish its policy goals. The federation should then encourage business corporations to consider making political donations, with the results of its policy assessment used as a yardstick to make decisions in this respect.

Keidanren should adopt such an easy-to-understand approach.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 10, 2014)Speech


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