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東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 30, 2009)
Economic cooperation path to community
東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を(9月30日付・読売社説)

Even talk of an "East Asian community" may be getting too far ahead of the reality of the situation.

It is important first to improve the environment for its creation and proceed with the substantiation of the concept through steady efforts to strengthen economic partnerships in the region.

The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea, at their meeting in Shanghai on Monday, agreed to strengthen their cooperation to create an East Asian community.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada stressed the necessity of promoting regional economic partnerships and building cooperation in individual sectors, such as energy and environmental efforts, under the principle of "open regionalism." Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who puts an East Asian community at the center of his diplomatic strategies based on the spirit of yu-ai or "fraternity," expressed the same view in a speech at the United Nations during his visit to the United States last week.

"Open regionalism" is based on a concept of regional cooperation that does not exclude specific countries, including the United States. It has been a policy of the Japanese government since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi touted the creation of an East Asian community in 2002. The Hatoyama administration seems to be following in Koizumi's footsteps.


Motives questioned

Nevertheless, there still are some in the United States who wonder about Hatoyama's real intention. There is little doubt that such questions are linked to Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece in a U.S. newspaper that criticized U.S.-led globalization and touched on the issue of creating a common Asian currency.

It would be self-defeating for Japan to take on an active leadership role in promoting the concept of an East Asian community if it negatively influences the Japan-U.S. alliance. Hatoyama and Okada should assuage U.S. worries by sufficiently explaining the intent of the effort.

Discussing the idea of an East Asian community at a summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in New York last week, Hatoyama cited the example of energy cooperation between Germany and France leading to a wave of integration in Europe.

However, it is unreasonable to model an East Asian community after the European Union. East Asia is composed of various types of countries whose political frameworks differ from each other. Due to the threat of North Korean nuclear missile attacks and China's mounting military build-up, the security environment in East Asia is not as stable as that of Europe in the post-Cold War era.


First step

To eventually create an East Asian community, it is appropriate to begin by strengthening regional economic cooperation.

But among Japan, China and South Korea, discussion of free trade agreements and investment treaties have not made progress. South Korea has maintained a cautious stance on an FTA out of concern it might increase its trade deficit with Japan, while China also is hesitant about signing an investment treaty for fear of being forced to liberalize its investment regulations.

Japan's FTA negotiations with India and Australia also have stagnated. South Korea and India, which, along with China, has shown significant economic growth, signed an FTA in August. Japan's delayed start cannot be denied.

In October, a summit meeting among the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea and an East Asia Summit meeting are planned. Hatoyama and Okada should deepen discussions on strengthening economic cooperation in the region in a concrete manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2009)
(2009年9月30日01時08分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-30 10:55 | 英字新聞

谷垣自民党総裁 解党的出直しの先頭に立て

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 29, 2009)
Tanigaki must initiate LDP's transformation
谷垣自民党総裁 解党的出直しの先頭に立て(9月29日付・読売社説)

Former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has been picked as the new president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

The new LDP leader's eventual goal is to regain control of the government. To do so, the LDP must first carry out root-and-branch reform of the party so it can start from the beginning again.

At the same time, the LDP should adopt a cooperative stance by working with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on important policies concerning matters of national interest and make efforts to realize them, not merely criticize the DPJ-led administration from the standpoint of an opposition party.

Voting and vote-counting for the LDP presidential election were held Monday. Veteran lawmaker Tanigaki beat his two younger contenders--former Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono and former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Tanigaki faces a heavy responsibility in bringing about the rebirth of the LDP after its crushing defeat in the recent House of Representatives election.

Tanigaki's victory likely came as a result of the fact that both LDP Diet lawmakers and rank-and-file party members highly evaluate his experience in important cabinet and party posts, the sense of stability he projects and his mild-mannered personality.

Tanigaki asserted that the LDP should take a whole-party approach that he described as "a baseball team determined to win by employing all the players' strengths in a unified manner." Kono dismissed Tanigaki's analogy, severely criticizing the party's factional politics, but his harsh approach--demanding the expulsion of faction leaders--won little understanding.


LDP should take fight to DPJ

The Diet is the main battlefield of an opposition party.

Tanigaki has stressed that the LDP must ensure the ruling parties fulfill their responsibilities, and that it must come up with well-conceived policies and not lose heart. At the same time, he said the LDP will have no future if it merely finds fault with the ruling parties.

Tanigaki is right. The LDP should trade verbal blows toe-to-toe with the ruling parties on tax and financial issues, including on the issues of a hike in the consumption tax and national security. The party should also highlight contradictions in the DPJ's policies and present responsible counterproposals.

If LDP lawmakers, young and old alike, question ruling party members in Diet deliberations from such a point of view, the party will recover its vitality. Tanigaki himself should take the lead in setting a good example in Diet deliberations, including party leader debates with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Reconstructing the party will be no easy task. Personnel management and national elections, including the House of Councillors election to be held next summer, will be the first hurdles for Tanigaki.


Winning urban vote key

The fact that Kono and Nishimura, who both asserted the necessity for a generational change in the presidential election, gained a measure of support may signify a desire within the party for a drastic change in the system of allocating party executive posts. To give the party's top echelon a makeover, young and middle-aged lawmakers should be appointed to senior posts.

In the next upper house election, the LDP must entrust the party leadership with decision-making power and rethink its strategies, including on candidate selection.

As for the LDP's election strategy, if the party focuses on the rural vote, its prospects will remain dim. The important thing is for it to come up with policies that strike a chord with urban residents in the prime of life. It is indispensable for the LDP to present a clear vision to counter the DPJ's, such as its own growth strategy and a new model for the ideal shape of the nation.

Convincing voters that the LDP has changed would be a step toward a return to power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2009)
(2009年9月29日01時04分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-29 10:34 | 英字新聞

敬老の日 安心できる超高齢社会に

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 21, 2009)
Assuage people's fears over hyper-aging society
敬老の日 安心できる超高齢社会に(9月21日付・読売社説)

Respect-for-the-Aged Day falls Monday, a few days after the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama took office.

This nation is aging faster than any other in the world.

In 1966, when Respect-for-the-Aged Day became a national holiday, the average life span of Japanese males was 68 and that of females 73. Currently, men live an average of 79 years and women 86 years, and life spans are bound to continue to lengthen. We live in an era in which about 1.3 million, or one in 100, of the nation's population are aged 90 or older.

Of course, graying itself is not something to feel anxious about. It is gratifying that many people live long.

Nevertheless, our hyper-aging society tends to be described in gloomy terms, no doubt due to concern that the social security system is unsustainable.

To dispel such anxieties, the new administration faces a mountain of tasks related to reconstructing and maintaining the pension system and medical and nursing care services, all of which are vital to support elderly people's lives.


DPJ must make right decision

The first daunting challenge facing the new administration is overhauling the medical insurance system for elderly people.

At a press conference he gave after assuming his post, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma reiterated that the medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older would be abolished. He did not say when the current system would be scrapped. As for a system that would replace the existing one, Nagatsuma said it would be designed to reflect realities. This was a pragmatic choice.

The medical insurance system for those aged 75 and over was crafted to resolve the severe strain that the health insurance system for elderly people had come under. It clarified the burden that working generations must shoulder to pay the medical expenses of those aged 75 and older. It also removed the disparities in premiums that existed within individual prefectures by setting up prefectural-run insurers.

Although it is true that the current system is flawed and was never explained properly, the emotional backlash over its name--its reference to elderly people aged 75 and older as koki koreisha (late-stage elderly people)--and other elements predominated during discussions over the new system, with the result that it was never discussed in a calm manner.

When the DPJ was an opposition party, it was all right to press the government on the system's defects and parrot the slogan "Abolish the new system immediately and reinstate the old medical insurance system for the elderly."
But since it has become the ruling party and taken over the reins of government, it will not be forgiven if it makes a decision that could invite confusion.


Have sales tax fund welfare

Weighing up the merits and demerits of the medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older and then reconstructing it would not mean breaking the DPJ's election campaign pledge to abolish the existing system.
We hope the DPJ formulates a blueprint for the medical insurance system for the elderly calmly and constructively.

In doing so, if increases in health insurance premiums and over-the-counter payments by patients are seen to have reached their limit, there is no option but to increase the injection of public money. That is true not only in the case of medical services, but also for pension and nursing care insurance systems.

But can the DPJ fund measures for elderly people without increasing taxes at a time when securing financial resources for other new policies, such as the monthly child-rearing allowance, is in question?

If the consumption tax is transformed into a social security tax so that financial resources can be properly secured, the government will have more choices in formulating policies for this hyper-aging society. The new administration should make a decision on the medical insurance system for elderly people without delay.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2009)
(2009年9月21日01時12分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-21 07:20 | 英字新聞

鳩山外交始動 日米同盟基軸を行動で示せ

Words alone not enough for Japan-U.S. alliance
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 20, 2009)
鳩山外交始動 日米同盟基軸を行動で示せ(9月20日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will leave for the United States on Monday, where he plans to attend a series of international conferences that will discuss such important global issues as climate change, nuclear arms reduction, nuclear nonproliferation, the world economy and international finance.

Hatoyama also is scheduled to hold summit meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama as well the leaders of countries including Britain, China, France, India, Russia and South Korea.

These planned meetings indicate the keen interest that world leaders have in the diplomatic stance of Hatoyama, who has effected a change in government.

During the campaign for last month's House of Representatives election, Hatoyama stressed that "continuity is important for diplomacy." During his U.S. visit, we hope he will assert to the world that there will be no fundamental changes in this country's foreign policies following the recent change in power. This means maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance, respecting the principle of international cooperation and promoting the free trade system.


No room for misinterpretation

It is particularly important for Hatoyama to convey clearly to the United States that the Japan-U.S. alliance will continue to be the axis of this nation's foreign policy.

A Hatoyama op-ed article carried on the Web site of a U.S. newspaper late last month was seen to criticize U.S.-led globalism, and was thus construed as being "anti-U.S.," stirring controversy in Washington.

Hatoyama later said his true opinions were not conveyed accurately.

It is important for the prime minister to dispel such concern during his U.S. visit by giving a full account of his stance in his own words.

To this end, Hatoyama also must show that actions speak louder than words. He should, for example, clarify the kind of assistance Japan plans to provide to Afghanistan--a country at the forefront of the "war against terror."

If Afghanistan once again becomes a haunt for international terrorist organizations, global peace and security could be quickly destabilized.

During a phone conversation earlier this month, Obama's asked Hatoyama for Japan's help in sweeping militants out of Afghanistan--apparently prompted by the U.S. president's recognition of the dire situation in the war-torn country.

If Japan suspends the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean--as the Democratic Party of Japan pledged to do during campaigning for the recent election--the United States would conclude that Japan was withdrawing from the fight against terrorism. This could cause a serious rift in the Japan-U.S. relationship.

As an alternative measure, Hatoyama has said he would reinforce civilian activities in Afghanistan. However, Japan has been engaging in a range of activities in the country, including the provision of agricultural assistance and the construction of schools.

Is Hatoyama's plan really a feasible alternative? We believe he should explore the possibility of continuing the refueling mission.


Clarify nuclear stance

The prime minister has stressed his intention to realize a unified Asian currency and build an East Asia community. This has given rise to concerns in the United States that the new Japanese government's diplomatic policy is based on "independence from the United States and better regional relations in Asia."

Up until now Japan's basic stance has been to offer cooperation in specific fields within a given region--such as liberalization of trade and investment and help with environmental measures--but has not engaged in regional cooperation that has excluded certain countries.

The prime minister has indicated that he favors this tack. We believe Hatoyama does not want his policy stance to be taken to mean that he undervalues the Japan-U.S. alliance. He should thus make a point of carefully explaining that he has no intention of trying to distance Japan from the United States.

Regarding the issues of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, Obama has called for a world free of nuclear weapons.

How can the international community pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear development program? What steps can be taken to persuade China to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons and disclose information on its military might, such as how many nuclear warheads it presently holds?

One of the DPJ's manifesto pledges was to realize a nuclear-free Northeast Asia. However, if concrete measures are not thrashed out to tackle this issue, the plan is mere pie in the sky.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is scheduled to accompany the prime minister to the United States. During a press conference held after he had taken up his new post, Okada reiterated his desire for the United States to renounce the preemptive use of nuclear arms.

The United States' nuclear umbrella is the only protection Japan has in the face of the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear missiles. In this regard, we believe the idea of renouncing preemptive nuclear attacks neglects the regional security environment, and could seriously harm this nation's peace and security.

Preaching one's own philosophy is fine if you are a member of the opposition bloc. However, as Okada is now this country's foreign minister, stating a view that differs from that of the prime minister creates an impression of confusion within the government and ruins Japan's credibility overseas.

We urge Hatoyama and Okada to bear in mind Japan's diplomatic policies and discuss carefully--prior to their departure for the United States--the positions they intend to take during the talks with world leaders.


Climate pledge conditional

On the climate change issue, Hatoyama has announced that Japan will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

European countries hold this pledge in high esteem, but this likely is because they want to make Japan stick to its promises. As such, we should not take their enthusiasm purely at face value.

Hatoyama also has said that other major countries must agree to make "ambitious" reduction targets as a "precondition" for Japan's emissions-cut goal. The pledge to reduce emissions by 25 percent should not be allowed to take on a life of its own. The prime minister should stress the conditional elements of his pledge at the U.N. summit on climate change in New York.

International conferences and summit meetings are the arenas in which world leaders strike bargains while keeping a strong eye on their own national interests. Our new prime minister and foreign minister should stay focused during these occasions, and be careful about making promises or remarks before the international community that could harm this nation's interests.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2009)
(2009年9月20日01時19分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-20 09:28 | 英字新聞

自民総裁選告示 政権奪還が目指せる党首を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 19, 2009)
LDP needs leader who can rule roost
自民総裁選告示 政権奪還が目指せる党首を(9月19日付・読売社説)

The Liberal Democratic Party officially announced Friday the date of its presidential election. This will be a golden opportunity for the former ruling party to restart from scratch after its historic defeat in the recent House of Representatives election.

Former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, former Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono and Yasutoshi Nishimura, former parliamentary vice foreign minister, have filed their candidacies for the election.

The party has decided that votes will be cast and counted on Sept. 28. We hope the three candidates will use the time available to tell party members in plain language just how they plan to reform the party--and what kind of bitter medicine the LDP will have to swallow during the reform process. They must demonstrate they possess the leadership needed to help the party overcome the biggest crisis in its history.

Former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, who was considered a top contender to succeed former Prime Minister Taro Aso, and former Construction and Transport Minister Nobuteru Ishihara, who ran in last autumn's LDP presidential election, announced earlier they would not throw their hats in the ring.

Some observers believe that Masuzoe and Ishihara decided not to run this time because, even if elected, the next LDP president could not become prime minister as there is no prospect of the party returning to power any time soon.


Might not be a 'next time'

However, the party is not in a situation where it can optimistically assume there will be a "next time."

The only other time the LDP found itself booted into the opposition was when the administration of Morihiro Hosokawa was launched in 1993. However, the LDP returned to the ruling bloc about 10 months later. At that time, the party was the largest force in both Diet chambers.

The situation is completely different today: The Democratic Party of Japan is the strongest presence in both houses.

Six prefectures including Niigata Prefecture have no LDP representative in the lower house. Iwate and two other prefectures have no LDP member in either Diet house. It is no stretch of the imagination to assume that pro-LDP industry organizations and local assembly members will gradually start leaning toward the DPJ and eventually become loyal supporters of the current ruling party.

The LDP increased the number of votes given to representatives of prefectural chapters for the upcoming presidential election to 300 from the previous election's 141. It also will hold open debate meetings across the country. These measures reflect the party's recognition that there will not be a "next time" if its Diet members, local assembly members and rank-and-filers are not on the same page when it comes to rebuilding the party.

The three candidates said they will end the huge influence that factions hold over party management and personnel matters, and that incumbents will be given priority in the selection of election candidates. However, the necessity of such changes has been pointed out each time the party has been defeated in an election. It is natural that the party should carry out such reforms--this time could be the last chance to do so.


Time to start rebuilding

More importantly, LDP members should start by bracing themselves for a lengthy stay on the opposition benches. Accepting this sobering likelihood will be the first step in strengthening the party to a point where it can carry out political activities, steadily and tenaciously, across the nation.

Government subsidies to the party are expected to plunge from about 15.7 billion yen before the lower house election to about 10.4 billion yen. The LDP will have little option but to slash the number of party staffers and members' secretaries. If the party is serious about winning next summer's House of Councillors election, it should not hesitate to make sweeping changes to its list of would-be candidates if necessary.

Such actions could invite a fierce backlash and even lead to a split in the party if they are not handled properly. Even so, the LDP needs a leader who can convince any skeptics within the party to get on board, and, if push comes to shove, overcome any defiance.

Even if a successful candidate obtains the support of local assembly members and rank-and-file party members, the LDP will be viewed by many people as a "political party incapable of transforming itself" if the new LDP president ducks important national issues by focusing on such matters as dispensing with factions or ushering in a generational change in the party.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2009)
(2009年9月19日01時03分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-19 08:07 | 英字新聞


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by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-18 15:14 | アドセンス

官僚会見禁止 政治主導をはき違えてないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 18, 2009)
Muzzling bureaucrats might be step too far
官僚会見禁止 政治主導をはき違えてないか(9月18日付・読売社説)

Members of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Cabinet agreed at an informal meeting Wednesday that regular press conferences by administrative vice ministers and other bureaucrats will be abolished, and that concerned lawmakers such as ministers instead would hold press conferences to express the official views of ministries and agencies. After the meeting, government organizations were notified of this decision.

Official press conferences by ranking ministry and agency officials such as administrative vice ministers and other top bureaucrats are valuable opportunities for the news media to ask questions on technical issues related to each ministry and agency.

We have no objection to the Hatoyama Cabinet's drive to transform the nation's politics from its overdependence on bureaucrats to one led by politicians.

However, we cannot condone the new administration if it attempts--under the name of "reducing the power of bureaucrats"--to restrict opportunities for the media to ask questions and consequently infringe on the public's right to know. We want the Hatoyama administration to reconsider its decision to muzzle bureaucrats.

Banning these media conferences appears to be an attempt by the new Cabinet to show that it will not allow top ministry and agency officials to control policy direction via press conferences.


Drawing the line

The agreement among the Cabinet members underlines that lawmakers have responsibility for planning, adjusting and deciding policies, and that bureaucrats should help this process. This relationship between lawmakers and bureaucrats is quite reasonable.

But banning press conferences by administrative vice ministers and other bureaucrats seems excessive. It also is unclear just who "other bureaucrats" refers to.

The Cabinet says ministers will allow bureaucrats to hold press conferences if their expertise is needed or the situation demands. However, the standard for this is so vague that there has already been some confusion at ministries and agencies.

Government entities have to inform the public about many issues. Some of them are urgent matters, such as influenza outbreaks and disasters. It is unrealistic to expect lawmakers to hold every single press conference on such issues.

Of course, in an ideal world, ministers, vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries could understand every detail on all policy issues and give a full account of them. But there are question marks over whether this is really possible.


Unintended consequences

The new Cabinet's disdain for bureaucrats' press conferences has stirred concern that bureaucrats might feel intimidated and become hesitant to disclose information that could be necessary for the public. We are worried that bureaucrats might use the ban as an excuse not to hold press conferences, and try to conceal scandals and other problems.

Administrative bodies are supposed to always be open to the public. The role of the news media is to watch and scrutinize ministries and agencies on behalf of the public.

Restricting press conferences would make the policy-making process less transparent. This would go against the new government's aim of breaking the dominance of bureaucrats.

The agreement by the new ministers says lawmakers and bureaucrats should carry out their responsibilities for the country and its people based on a clear separation of roles. If that is the case, then by the same token, lawmakers and bureaucrats could hold different kinds of press conferences based on their respective roles.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2009)
(2009年9月18日01時31分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-18 09:03 | 英字新聞

鳩山内閣発足 進路を誤らず改革を進めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 17, 2009)
Take the right direction toward change
鳩山内閣発足 進路を誤らず改革を進めよ(9月17日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's new administration got up and running Wednesday, though public sentiment seems split between expectation and anxiety over the nation's political future.
Members of the new Cabinet should not allow themselves to feel any exhilaration over the birth of this historic government.

Confusion caused by the transfer of power also must be avoided, as the new government will have to tackle such urgent issues as pulling the nation out of the global recession, designing the future of the social security system and developing a new strategic foreign policy. To achieve tangible results, all of these tasks must be conducted at full power.


Be flexible over manifesto vows

The public is expecting the new Cabinet to change the Liberal Democratic Party's style of politics, which had hit an impasse. This desire for change was made clear by the results of the recent House of Representatives election.

However, people also are concerned that excessive changes might lead to problems. The new Cabinet should take a levelheaded approach to continuing the basic policies of its predecessors with regard to the future course of the nation.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan should not cling too tenaciously to the pledges it made for the lower house election. People who voted the DPJ into power do not necessarily support all of these promises.

There also are some public doubts as to whether financial resources can be secured for many of the DPJ manifesto pledges and whether some of these pledges are really feasible, including a child-allowance system, toll-free expressways and targets for cutting the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. According to opinion polls, more people than not oppose many of these election vows.

The DPJ apparently is keen to avoid criticism for breaking its promises. However, it would be even worse for the DPJ to fall into an election-pledge trap of its own making, which could cause irreversible damage. It is vital for the party to have the courage to reexamine its pledges and revise those in need of improvement.

In the new Cabinet, DPJ Acting President Naoto Kan became deputy prime minister and national strategy minister, and former DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada assumed the post of foreign minister.

Hirohisa Fujii, the party's top adviser, was appointed finance minister, while former DPJ President Seiji Maehara was named construction and transport minister.

Hatoyama apparently has taken the power balance of intraparty groups into consideration and placed people who have proven themselves in the past in important posts.

Though the makeup of the new Cabinet seems solid, it seems to lack a certain freshness.

At a press conference held in the evening, Hatoyama underscored his intention to end the practice of excessive government dependence on bureaucrats with regard to policy-making.

Key to his success will be the national strategy bureau and the administrative renewal council, to be administered by Kan and Administrative Renewal Minister Yoshito Sengoku, respectively.


Politician-led politics

The national strategy bureau--for now--will take on the jobs of recompiling the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget and setting out policies for compiling the budget for the next fiscal year.

Putting the economy firmly on the path to recovery is the top priority of all economic policies, and finding financial sources to fund new initiatives that come with huge price tags is of crucial importance. Hatoyama, therefore, must ensure his new administration juggles these two difficult goals.

There are concerns over possible frictions between the national strategy bureau and ministries and agencies, as the extent of the national strategy bureau's authority has yet to be established. Kan should work in close consultation with Fujii on budgetary matters.

The administrative renewal council is charged with a "zero-based review" of the work done by ministries, agencies and independent administrative institutions. Powerful political leadership that can weed out resistance by bureaucrats and relevant organizations is indispensable in terms of plunging the scalpel into the vested interests of each government entity and effecting the large-scale transfer of work performed by the central government to local governments and the private sector.

Labor unions that support the DPJ could be a stumbling block to reform. In addition to Sengoku, Hatoyama himself must exercise leadership in this endeavor.

To enable politicians to assume leadership in policy-making, it is essential to have a robust Cabinet lineup, with key ministers keeping their posts until this Cabinet resigns--a departure from the LDP's practice of constantly reshuffling the cabinet.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma stepped into the limelight two years ago, when he grilled the government over its sloppy pension-record-keeping. Nagatsuma is now tasked with directing the ministry instead of leveling a barrage of criticism against it. He will be tested on whether he has the ability to make bureaucrats dance to his tune.

Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima was appointed as state minister in charge of consumer affairs and the declining birthrate. Her appointment likely is aimed at reflecting the viewpoint of women and consumers in general with regard to the government's policies. We hope Fukushima will try to implement a well-balanced administration that does not express views that largely differ from the government line in order to make her party's presence felt.

Meanwhile, People's New Party leader Shizuka Kamei was named state minister in charge of financial services and postal reform.
While it is necessary to revamp the somewhat flawed Japan Post Holdings Co. led by Yoshifumi Nishikawa and review the privatization of postal services by taking end-users' convenience into consideration, Kamei should not digress from the original purpose of the privatization, and should refrain from any attempt to revive the huge financial institution at the government's initiative.

Hatoyama should not easily be pushed into agreeing to policies put forward by the DPJ's coalition partners--the SDP and the PNP.

Tests lie ahead

In terms of foreign policy, Hatoyama's first real test will come next week during a visit to the United States.

Concerning the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, Hatoyama says the mission will not automatically be extended beyond its mid-January expiration. If this is the case, the prime minister should strive to find another way to continue the mission rather than by "the automatic extension of the expiration."

The realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, also is an important issue. We believe steady implementation of the agreement between Japan and the United States is the fastest way to reduce the burden on local governments in the prefecture.

With regard to North Korean nuclear issues, Washington recently has shown its readiness to hold direct talks with Pyongyang. In order to get North Korea back around the six-party table and obtain concessions from Pyongyang, the Japanese government needs to steadily implement a U.N. Security Council sanction resolution and continue to put pressure on North Korea.

Hatoyama also should reaffirm Japan's close cooperation with China, South Korea, Russian and the United States and try to pass into law as quickly as possible a bill to permit inspections of cargo carried by North Korean ships and aircraft.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2009)
(2009年9月17日01時14分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-17 06:28 | 英字新聞

新人議員 「国事」を担う志と責任感を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 16, 2009)
Hopes, responsibilities of new Diet members
新人議員 「国事」を担う志と責任感を(9月16日付・読売社説)

As a result of the change of government, the House of Representatives chamber will have a completely different look when a special Diet session convenes Wednesday. The seats allocated to the largest party in the lower house, which are located to the speaker's right, will be taken by the Democratic Party of Japan, instead of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Of the DPJ seats, nearly half will be occupied by the 143 members who were elected to the Diet for the first time. The first-time Diet members include former employees of private firms and local assembly members. Some of them previously worked as bureaucrats and as secretaries for Diet members. Among the freshmen, some have absolutely no experience in politics.

How will politics change under the DPJ government and what policies will actually be carried out? Those putting on their Diet members tags for the first time on Wednesday will immediately come under close scrutiny.


Duties of representatives

"Daigishi," as lower house members are called, means a person who discusses state affairs on behalf of the public. First of all, newly elected lawmakers should once again carefully read the Constitution--the basic law of the land--and the Diet Law, which stipulates the rules of the Diet.

It is also important that they proceed with their work keeping an up-to-date image in their minds of the times and the future direction of the nation as a whole.

Of the 83 so-called Koizumi Kids, who were selected by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and who swept to victory in the 2005 lower house election, only nine were reelected this time as LDP candidates.

The DPJ's first-time Diet members should keep in mind that they, too, could face the same destiny. They should remember that more important than anything else is to work steadily on a daily basis on their duties for the Diet and their local constituencies.

When former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone attended the Diet for the first time, he wore a black tie, saying that he did so because the country would remain in mourning as long as it was occupied by the United States. It was a start befitting Nakasone, who went on to call for Japan to write its own constitution and, as prime minister, for the issues blighting Japan's postwar political system to be settled once and for all.

All the newly elected Diet members will undoubtedly have their own political beliefs and ideals. We hope that they will not forget these aspirations that they have in their minds on their first official day in the Diet.


Fall not into temptation

Many Diet member activities are supported by taxpayers' money paid to them in the form of annual allowances and party subsidies. Diet members have privileges and face financial temptations when it comes to dealing with vested interests.
Given these factors, it is important they keep themselves on the straight and narrow, never forgetting the viewpoint of the ordinary man in the street.

Sooner or later, the newly elected Diet members will be stationed as parliamentary secretaries or other posts in government ministries and agencies.

Unlike their seniors, newly elected DPJ members will start their careers as lawmakers in the ruling camp. Therefore, they will be in the position of "directing" officials in government departments rather than "challenging" them.

They will probably find it difficult to work effectively with government officials at first. But they will find it better to try working with bureaucrats, with a willingness to learn from their specialized administrative expertise.

Only trouble will result if they come to represent the clanlike interests of certain industries and prefectures. Instead, becoming well-versed in policy matters will be a powerful tool for getting their points across to bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, the LDP has only five newly elected Diet members. But this means they will have a great opportunity to engage in a variety of tasks. We hope that as members of an opposition party, they will work with a strong determination to keep a close eye on the administration led by the incoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2009)
(2009年9月16日01時21分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-16 06:09 | 英字新聞

リーマン1年 金融再生に教訓を生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 15, 2009)
Apply lessons learned from Lehman Shock
リーマン1年 金融再生に教訓を生かせ(9月15日付・読売社説)

The global financial crisis that originated in the United States, said to be the worst in a century, has been easing, but a full-fledged recovery seems a long way off.

A year has passed since major U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed on Sept. 15, 2008. The so-called Lehman Shock caused an unprecedented financial crisis that pushed nations across the world into a simultaneous economic downturn.

Prior to Lehman Brothers' collapse, the housing bubble had burst in the United States, and the market for higher-risk financial derivatives packed with mortgages had contracted sharply. This happened because monetary authorities failed to take swift action to respond to market volatility.

A year after the failure of Lehman Brothers, instability in global financial markets has finally been alleviated, and the world financial and economic situation is picking up.


U.S. economy remains weak

Japan, China, European nations, the United States and other major countries mobilized every possible policy weapon at their disposal, including large-scale economic pump-priming activities and extraordinary easy-money policies. It is significant that international cooperation brought about good results and prevented the crisis from spiraling out of control.

Stock prices in Japan, Europe and the United States, which had tumbled, have recovered to levels about 10 percent lower than those recorded before the Lehman Shock. Stock prices in emerging countries, such as China, are turning up.

Economies in major countries are on a recovery track. Among leading countries that have registered negative growth, Japan returned to positive growth during the April-June period. Although Europe and the United States have so far been unable to sail out of the economic doldrums, their economies are expected to bottom out this year. China has maintained an economic growth rate of about 8 percent.

But the financial crisis is not over. There is little ground for optimism.

In the United States, the jobless rate has risen to about 10 percent. Individual consumption remains low, and the economy remains weak. There are fears that a double-dip recession could occur.

The sluggish U.S. economy could have serious consequences for the rest of the world, including Japan. Given that the global economy has yet to make a full-fledged recovery, it would be premature to begin an exit strategy and scale down economic pump-priming measures.


G-20 meet focus of attention

To avoid a recurrence of the crisis, it is an urgent task to strengthen financial regulation and supervision.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has announced its new reform proposals to tighten controls over the financial sector. But there are moves in the United States to oppose Obama's reform proposals.

The Group of 20 developed and emerging nations also aims to strengthen regulations by reviewing the capital adequacy ratios of financial institutions and capping executive bonuses, but has had difficulty setting international rules due to conflicts of interest.

It is feared that movements of speculative money have revived, taking advantage of a delay in efforts by individual countries to strengthen financial regulations. Crude oil and gold prices are soaring. We should stay alert for the rapid expansion of money flowing outside the real economy.

The G-20 financial summit meeting will be held in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25. How will the world's financial leaders apply the lessons learned from the Lehman Shock? Their ability to take action to accelerate financial revitalization will be put to the test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2009)
(2009年9月15日01時09分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-09-15 08:49 | 英字新聞