--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 5
EDITORIAL: Kan's news conference

Prime Minister Naoto Kan deserves good marks for his spirit. This time, therefore, he must not swerve or shrink from the determination to achieve the goals he has set.

In his New Year's news conference Tuesday, Kan clarified three key issues for his administration this year: the so-called Heisei Era opening of Japan keyed to Japan's potential participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade liberalization framework; the integrated reform of the tax system, including the consumption tax and social security; and resolving problems linked to money politics.

Kan needs to put his wandering administration back on course so it can restore public trust in government through sound party politics. To that end, we share his awareness of the issues in narrowing policy targets to the TPP and consumption tax.

To a trading nation like Japan, bolstering free trade is a matter of huge importance in coping with the rapid rise in demand from newly emerging countries. We also hope this will open a window of opportunity for rebuilding the nation's steadily waning agriculture sector.

At the same time, the budgeting process at the end of last year underscored the unfeasibility of compiling any further budgets without action on the swelling fiscal deficit. To protect the future of social security, the bedrock of the people's peace of mind, continuing to sidestep the problem is not an option.

On each issue, however, there is no shortage of calls for caution and outright opposition, not only within Kan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan, but among the general public, as well.

Kan faces an uphill battle certain to sap the strength of his administration. Having stumbled in reining in the divided Diet, we worry about Kan's determination to resolve these struggles.

During last year's Upper House election campaign, Kan broached the idea of doubling the consumption tax to 10 percent. He quickly withdrew that notion when the prospects for acceptance appeared slim. On the TPP, pressured by dissent from within the DPJ, Kan refrained from committing Japan to the framework at last November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. We hope to see no further vacillation on such major issues.

Next year, Japan's baby boomer generation will begin to collect public pension benefits. Clearly, no more time can be wasted in securing the fiscal resources to finance social security.

For the TPP, the negotiating nations envision an agreement by next November. If Japan lags in getting on board, it will lose leverage for reflecting its opinions in any accord.

On all fronts, 2011 promises to be a showdown year. For Kan, there is only one road to travel. He must display unwavering resolve in winning over the opposing faction in the DPJ as well as the opposition parties. He must meticulously explain the issues to the people and take the initiative in consensus-building.

On integrated reform of social security and taxation, Kan has appealed to the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other opposition parties to join a nonpartisan dialogue.

Regardless of what party holds power, addressing this issue cannot be avoided. Earnest proposals from the administration demand earnest responses from the opposition camp. Prioritizing strategies designed to corner the ruling government by refusing to take part in talks from the outset is intolerable.

The responsibility for furnishing such an environment certainly lies with the prime minister. It was only natural, therefore, for Kan to declare his resolve to deal with the two big policy issues of the TPP and the consumption tax, and the problem of money and politics.

As the first step in that direction, the prime minister must arrange for former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa to attend the Lower House ethics panel regarding alleged irregularities in his political funding reports. This should occur before the ordinary Diet session opens.

For Kan, the time to start getting his resolutions on track is now.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-01-07 06:50 | 英字新聞

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