読売緊急提言 新首相の下で復興体制確立を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 12, 2011)
Next administration must show clear path to reconstruction
読売緊急提言 新首相の下で復興体制確立を(8月11日付・読売社説)


As of Thursday, it has been five months since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, but reconstruction of disaster-hit areas has been greatly delayed from the government's initial schedule.

Disposal of the massive amount of debris in the areas has not progressed smoothly, while many disaster survivors are still forced to live in evacuation centers.

There is also political turmoil as a result of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's irresponsible extemporaneous remarks and ad hoc responses to various issues.

There are even fears the Japanese economy will lose momentum due to upsets in financial markets, such as the hyper-appreciation of the yen and global plunges in stock prices.

At this juncture, we have no time to lose in drastically changing the current political framework.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has compiled a set of emergency proposals concerning reconstruction from the great earthquake.

The central and local governments should unite to accelerate efforts to reconstruct the quake- and tsunami-hit areas and rebuild the lives of people in those areas as early as possible.

It is also an urgent task to decontaminate areas tainted by radiation around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Japan must overcome the great earthquake and the nuclear crisis and realize a strong economic recovery.

What is really necessary is to restore political leadership in the nation.


Chose new DPJ head quickly

The prime minister, who announced his intention to resign in early June, still clings to the post, inviting serious paralysis in domestic and foreign policy. He must resign immediately.

We would like the Democratic Party of Japan to swiftly elect Kan's successor as party president.

The new DPJ president should not endlessly adhere to the party's unpopular election manifesto, which has already proved unworkable.

The new DPJ head should be strongly determined to bid farewell to the failed attempt to implement "government led by politicians" and able to effectively handle and make good use of bureaucrats and their expertise.

It is also indispensable for the new DPJ leader to put a premium on consultations between the ruling and opposition parties.

Under the currently divided Diet, in which the ruling parties hold a majority in the House of Representatives and opposition parties have a majority in the House of Councillors, it is important for both blocs to cooperate in deliberating on and enacting bills.

The new administration will have several options to swiftly carry out effective policy measures, including a grand coalition and cooperation from parties not represented in the cabinet.

The ruling and opposition parties need to put aside their political tug-of-war for about one year to seriously face the current national crisis.

According to the government's basic reconstruction policy, the first five years will be a period of intense reconstruction that will require revenues of at least 19 trillion yen.

Of this amount, 13 trillion yen--not including money necessary for the first and second supplementary budgets for the current fiscal year--should be financed through means including the issuance of reconstruction bonds, spending cuts and non-tax revenue, the policy says.


Discuss tax increase

Considering the nation's severe fiscal circumstances, the issuance of reconstruction bonds is unavoidable.

The problem is how to secure revenues to redeem the government bonds.

The government seems to be thinking about raising such key taxes as income, corporate and consumption taxes.  政府は、所得税、法人税、消費税の「基幹税」の増税を考えているようだ。

It must not leave debts to future generations, but should finance the redemption of the reconstruction bonds through stable revenue sources.

In this regard, we think it is most appropriate to make an increase in the consumption tax rate a major pillar of the tax hikes, because a wide variety of consumers can share the burden.

The plan for integrated reform of the tax and social security systems--which the government and ruling parties adopted in June--proposed that consumption tax revenue be used exclusively for social security purposes and the tax rate be raised to 10 percent by the middle of the 2010s.

It is reasonable to use the consumption tax revenue for social security purposes, in response to a graying society with a chronically low birthrate.


Raise consumption tax to 8%

Now that the nation is in a state of emergency, it may be advisable for the consumption tax rate to be raised by about 3 percentage points, starting in fiscal 2013, and for a considerable part of the increased revenue to be used for the redemption of the post-disaster reconstruction bonds.

A one percentage point hike in the consumption tax would be expected to increase tax revenue by 2.5 trillion yen.

The ruling and opposition parties should begin talks soon on the process of raising the tax rate and on the use of the increased revenue.

In connection with the issuance of post-disaster reconstruction bonds, the utilization of "buried treasure," idle funds held by individual households, is also promising.

It may be advisable for the government to draw out this sleeping private capital by issuing a no-interest, nontaxable government bond that is exempt from inheritance tax, and utilize it for reconstruction efforts.

Although the Japanese economy is picking up, there are worrisome factors, namely insufficient electricity and the rapid appreciation of the yen.


Prevent power crisis from expanding

In the aftermath of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, operations cannot be resumed at nuclear power plants that have completed regular inspections.

Operations at other nuclear power plants also are to be suspended for their regular inspections by next spring.

A devastating power shortage is becoming more of a real possibility.

Many companies are shifting their production bases abroad to avoid the risks stemming from the power shortage and the rapid rise of the yen.
If this trend accelerates, the nation's industries will be hollowed out.

This could undermine the foundation of the national economy.

To prevent such economic decay, the government should first ensure the safety of nuclear power plants and have operations resume at verified plants one by one, with the central government taking responsibility.

It is right for the government to pursue as an ultimate goal the promotion of such natural energies as solar, wind and geothermal power.
But we cannot count on their becoming major power sources anytime soon.

The government should pursue the best and most realistic energy policy, while utilizing nuclear power.

The realization of full-fledged economic expansion will boost post-disaster reconstruction and expand support to disaster-stricken areas.

The government and the Bank of Japan must do their utmost to prevent the too-rapid appreciation of the yen, which would have an adverse impact on the economy.

It is also desirable to reinforce the growth strategy of drawing on the vitality of foreign economies, through cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Japan must also quickly rebuild its export system, including such social infrastructure as the high-speed Shinkansen railway system and nuclear power plants for emerging economies, and participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2011)
(2011年8月11日03時04分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-08-13 07:19 | 英字新聞

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