Noda should get DPJ members on board to support tax bills
We would like to praise the agreement reached among the three major parties as substantial progress toward realization of comprehensive reform of the tax and social security systems, a long-time concern for Japan.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito on Friday agreed to modify and pass bills on the comprehensive reform.
As initially scheduled, they will try to pass the bills in the House of Representatives before the current Diet session ends on Thursday.
Negotiations among the three parties ran into rough waters since there are gaps in their opinions, especially regarding social security.
They deserve praise for making concessions with one another to form a consensus. We hope the parties will make this an important first step toward "decisive politics."
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told DPJ negotiators to hammer out an agreement based on the LDP's counterproposal involving social security system reform. He decided to make drastic concessions to the opposition parties in policies on the pension system and child-rearing support.
LDP plays important role
Meanwhile, the LDP responded to Noda's decision and made concessions to the DPJ by retracting its demand that its draft proposal be accepted without any modifications. Though an opposition party, the LDP played a very important role.
According to its 2009 lower house election manifesto, the DPJ aims to launch a minimum-guaranteed pension system and scrap a special health insurance system for people aged 75 or older. The LDP had initially demanded that the DPJ withdraw these plans from the manifesto. But the LDP did not continue to insist on that and instead agreed with the DPJ to shelve the issues temporarily and let an envisaged national council on social security reform discuss and reach conclusions on them later.
If the LDP had remained unyielding on this point, DPJ centrists as well as those who oppose the consumption tax rate hike might have reacted against it, driving the DPJ to the brink of a split and making it difficult to hold a vote on the bills.
Komeito, which had also strongly insisted that the DPJ drop the issues from the manifesto, decided to support the agreement because its opinions were sufficiently reflected in it. That is significant.
Broad consensus vital for long term
The comprehensive reform is a medium- and long-term issue that must be tackled by whatever party holds power. It is hoped that the bills can be passed with the support of as many parties as possible.
Though a conclusion on social security system reform was put off, this should not be criticized too quickly as prioritizing the tax increase.
The tax hike will be implemented in April 2014. It is not a bad idea to compile a better policy after the national council spends a year discussing the social security system reform, compared to making a conclusion under duress with only one week of negotiations on the modifications.
From now on, attention will be focused on whether members of the DPJ will accept the contents of this tripartite agreement and become ready to vote on the bills.
Former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa and others have said there are things that must be done before raising the tax. With the same old irresponsible rhetoric, they are playing an intraparty numbers game by using DPJ lawmakers opposing the tax hike and rattling the prime minister.
Now that the DPJ, LDP and Komeito have reached the agreement, members of the ruling party can no longer be allowed to march to a different drum and try to prevent a vote on the bills.
This is a critical phase that will determine the success or failure of the comprehensive reform. Noda should put his political life on the line to convince members of his party to minimize the intraparty opposition.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 2012)