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by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-16 11:53 | アドセンス

GDPマイナス 景気の失速回避に全力あげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 15, 2012)
All-out efforts needed to reverse business slowdown
GDPマイナス 景気の失速回避に全力あげよ(11月14日付・読売社説)

The fall in the nation's gross domestic product for the July-September quarter should be considered a sign of business slowdown. The nation faces a crucial moment of determining whether the economy will be able to avoid weakening even further.

The real-term GDP for the July-September period dropped 0.9 percent from the previous quarter, marking the first negative growth in three quarters. The slide translated into an annualized 3.5 percent decline. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed a sense of crisis, saying, "It's a dismal figure."

This contraction is attributable to two chief factors: the drop in foreign demand caused by the slowdown of foreign economies; and a fall in personal consumption and investment in plants and equipment that together account for core domestic demand. A boost in public investment for rebuilding from last year's earthquake and tsunami disaster stopped short of making up for the overall decline.

Domestic automobile sales have slackened due to the end of government subsidies for eco-friendly car purchases, and sales of household electrical appliances such as flat-screen TVs have remained sluggish. Increased uncertainty over corporate performance also has restrained corporate investment in plants and equipment.


Inaccurate recovery scenario

The government and the Bank of Japan sketched out a scenario in which they would wait for foreign economies to recover while sustaining demand at home through reconstruction projects in the hope that this would eventually lead to full-scale growth.

However, as the slowdown in domestic demand has come earlier than they expected, their scenario is not playing out as they imagined. They must increase their vigilance and make all-out efforts to sustain the economy.

Of major concern is that there seems to be slim hope of an early recovery in foreign economies.

Europe has fallen into a negative growth phase. The United States, meanwhile, is heading for a "fiscal cliff" from year-end to early next year that involves an end to various tax breaks including last year's temporary payroll tax cuts, thereby threatening to deal another blow to the global economy.

Also of major concern is a sharp drop in Japan's exports to China due to a slowdown in the Chinese economy and strained bilateral relations over the Senkaku Islands.

A government-planned small-scale emergency economic package using reserve funds is not strong enough to cope with such adverse conditions. The government must compile a supplementary budget as soon as possible and put together a full-fledged stimulus package.

However, as fiscal conditions remain strict, it is necessary to allocate budgets on a priority basis to public works projects that will have the greatest economic impact.


Use private sector as spur

The development and successful commercialization of private-sector innovation is the biggest driving force for economic growth. Future business opportunities can be expected in such growth industries as environment-related businesses and medical services.

We hope such moves will receive sufficient support for research and development projects through an investment tax credit and easing regulations that are hampering new business ventures. Adequate measures must be carefully devised after listening to the private sector's needs.

To make the most of the private sector's vigor, the domestic business environment must be improved first and foremost.

Concrete measures to achieve this include correcting the strength of the record-high yen; lowering the corporate tax rate, which is high compared to international standards; and restarting idled nuclear reactors to avert a possible power shortage.

Not least of all, the political situation must be stabilized to help shore up economic growth.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 14, 2012)
(2012年11月14日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-16 05:01 | 英字新聞

「TPP解散」 首相は交渉参加の旗を掲げよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 14, 2012)
Noda should hoist flag of TPP participation
「TPP解散」 首相は交渉参加の旗を掲げよ(11月13日付・読売社説)

It is vital that Japan promote free trade and boost its economic growth. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should decide that the nation will join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade framework.

At the House of Representatives Budget Committee, the prime minister again indicated that joining talks on the U.S.-led TPP would be among the Democratic Party of Japan's policy pledges for the next lower house election. He said discussions on the matter would be held within the party.

A year has passed since Noda announced Japan would enter talks with nations concerned with an eye to eventually taking a seat at TPP negotiations. It is problematic that he has kept delaying a decision on TPP participation and failed to take necessary steps for joining the trade pact, such as strengthening the international competitiveness of the agriculture sector to brace it for further market liberalization.

Now, more than ever, it would be significant to clearly show a resolve to accelerate Japan's economic growth by harnessing the dynamism of other parts of Asia through joining the TPP.


Key election issue

The TPP issue will be a hot topic in the lower house election likely to take place at the year-end or early next year. Detailed discussions should be held on the issue.

Some DPJ members remain firmly opposed to signing on to the TPP. Maneuvering to block Noda from dissolving the lower house after making the TPP a key campaign issue has become increasingly active.

However, nothing will be initiated unless Japan sits at the negotiation table. We hope Noda will not wilt in the face of this opposition and exerts strong leadership.

The Liberal Democratic Party, on the other hand, maintains a cautious stance. It opposes TPP participation if it is premised on eliminating all tariffs.

But if the LDP is serious about regaining power, it will need to map out concrete steps regarding how Japan as a trading nation can expand trade and invigorate its economy.

Some LDP members support TPP participation. The party should hold exhaustive discussions and hammer out a convincing policy course.


A security issue, too

Of concern to us is that Japan could be left completely behind while it dithers over making a decision.

It already has been decided that Canada and Mexico would join TPP negotiations. As U.S. President Barack Obama, a vocal advocate of the TPP, has recently been reelected, negotiations involving 11 nations will likely accelerate through next year.

Under the current circumstances, negotiations could proceed without Japan's participation on issues including the elimination or lowering of tariffs and formulation of trade and investment rules. The fate of Japan's national interests will hinge on whether the nation is engaged in these rule-making processes and can reflect its opinions.

Participation in the TPP is also important in terms of national security. It will lead to stronger Japan-U.S. relations, and also could help restrain the behavior of China, with which the nation has been at odds over the Senkaku Islands.

In parallel with the TPP, Japan should strive to seal a free trade agreement with China and South Korea and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia, among others. It is time to pursue wise, robust trade strategies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 13, 2012)
(2012年11月13日01時32分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-15 04:45 | 英字新聞

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by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-14 13:30 | アドセンス

地方公務員給与 自治体はもっと削減努力を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 13, 2012)
Local govts need bigger ax to slash personnel costs
地方公務員給与 自治体はもっと削減努力を(11月11日付・読売社説)

Slashing personnel costs is a crucial task for local governments and from the viewpoint of rebuilding the central government's finances. It is essential that local governments redouble their efforts to cut expenditures.

With preparations for compiling a state budget for fiscal 2013 under way, the Finance Ministry announced provisional calculations regarding salary levels of local government employees.

The Laspeyres index--an indicator that compares local government employees' salaries against a base of 100 for salaries of central government workers--stood at 106.9 for fiscal 2012, marking a reversal for the first time in nine years, according to the estimates.

Salaries in more than 80 percent of about 1,800 local entities across Japan exceeded the pay pocketed by central government employees.

This seems partly due to the fact that the central government decided to cut its employees' salaries for two years from fiscal 2012 to raise funds for budgetary appropriations for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Salaries of local government employees are stipulated by ordinances, mainly after consultations between municipalities and trade unions of their workers. The central government has no say in pay scale decisions by local governments.


Averse to pay cuts

However, local government employees' salaries are paid from local tax grants allocated by the central government, in addition to local tax revenues.

These tax grants, which are designed to help local governments make up for budget deficits, have reached more than 17 trillion yen a year. The central government funds these grants by incurring debts. Providing cash for local tax grants has been a major cause of the central government's fiscal crunch, along with fast-ballooning social security costs.

Personnel costs account for about one-fourth of the more than 80 trillion yen in total expenses of local governments throughout Japan. Curtailing employees' salaries is essential for turning around the finances of chronically debt-ridden local governments.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, who chairs the Association of Prefectural Governors, has bristled at the Finance Ministry's suggestion that local government workers' salaries must be cut. He said the central government "should recognize the efforts being made by local governments" to reel in budget deficits.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shinji Tarutoko also joined the chorus of criticism, saying the Finance Ministry was "making figures arbitrarily, apparently with the aim of misleading public opinion. This is extremely inappropriate."

The way salaries of local government employees are determined is baffling for several reasons.

Salary levels for a local government are decided, in principle, after checking salaries of other local entities and the central government, as well as salary trends in the private sector.


Fringe benefits too generous

According to the Finance Ministry, workers at local governments in every prefecture earned larger pay packets than the average monthly pay of private business employees. Local government monthly salaries were more than 100,000 yen higher than company employees' salaries in Aomori, Akita and Ehime prefectures, the ministry noted.

Aside from regular administrative positions, local government employees handling cleaning and bus-driving duties are paid 1.5 times the amount their private-sector counterparts receive. The figures are 1.9 times higher for security guards and and 1.8 times for telephone operators.

Some local entities pay employees housing allowances--a perk already abolished for central government employees. Others give special allowances to teachers for accompanying school excursions and supervising high school exams.

Both the ruling and opposition camps appear reluctant to take up the issue of local government salaries. They seem afraid of antagonizing local entities when a House of Representatives election is likely to be held soon.

Community residents and assemblies should press harder for administrative reform of local governments.

When the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent from October 2015, revenue from 1.54 percentage points of the five-point hike will go to local governments' coffers, which they can use at their discretion.

Given this, local governments should remain aware of their responsibility to further cut expenditures to ensure fiscal matters are handled effectively and properly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2012)
(2012年11月11日01時19分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-14 06:19 | 英字新聞

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by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-13 15:43 | アドセンス

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by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-13 07:06 | アドセンス

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:強がりな人ほど心に弱さ /東京

November 11, 2012(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Feeling upbeat and one's true character
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:強がりな人ほど心に弱さ /東京

Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, on his final day at work, was asked by reporters for his feelings. He responded, "I don't have any (sadness), I feel upbeat."

Hearing this, I was probably not the only one to think, "When was the last time I felt upbeat?" Asking this to a university senior who still hasn't secured a job, they told me, "When I open e-mail it's a notice that I've been turned down and my family gets depressed. Even the soccer team I like isn't doing well. There isn't a single bit of good news."

Then, why does Ishihara feel upbeat? There may be a feeling of freedom from dropping the burden of governor, but I don't think that is all. The Japan Restoration Party's leader Toru Hashimoto said at the party's formation, "A big battle is coming," and Ishihara, too, may be feeling excitement about forming his own party and leading it into national politics amidst the current political turmoil.

Should we feel strength in seeing such political leaders, or be unsettled by how far removed they are from regular people's lives? I am of the latter.

Harold Dwight Lasswell, a political scientist who was influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, writes something interesting in his book "Power and Personality." There are people in the world with a love for power, and they often become politicians, and according to Lasswell, many of them work for personal motives, such as overcoming unpleasant memories from childhood. He writes that these politicians cleverly use arguments for the public good to justify their personal motives.

I don't want to think that all the world's politicians are seeking power for personal reasons like overcoming inferiority complexes from their childhood and showing up the world. However, when I wonder if the fact that the stronger one looks, the weaker they are inside applies to politics as well, I find myself worrying about some politicians.

Of course, we cannot have only weak-willed politicians, but in these difficult times, I would like someone who doesn't forget kindness and compassion to lead society. Am I mistaken to want such a thing?

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年11月06日 地方版

by kiyoshimat | 2012-11-13 00:41 | 英字新聞