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英語:“Political parties irresponsible to delay fiscal rehabilitation measures”

Political parties are promising to implement policy measures that will require more government spending in their respective campaign pledges for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election.

The ruling coalition has declared that the administration would not use some of the revenue from the consumption tax increase from the current 8 percent to 10 percent, scheduled for October 2019, to repay state debts. Opposition parties have voiced objections to increasing the consumption tax rate.

Although the government is saddled with more than 1,000 trillion yen in debt, every political party has put the issue of restoring fiscal health on the back burner.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has not incorporated its goal of achieving a primary balance surplus by fiscal 2020, which the ruling party had pledged in the past, in its campaign pledge. A primary balance surplus means that the government can secure financial resources to cover the costs of social security and public works projects without borrowing money. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to divert part of the extra revenue from the consumption tax increase to finance the expenses of making education free of charge, although the consumption tax hike is designed mainly to help achieve a primary balance surplus.

“Amid the rapidly declining birth rate and aging of the population, we’ll implement policy measures worth about 2 trillion yen to achieve drastic reforms,” the prime minister said. However, if the government were to decrease its debt repayment, it would be tantamount to issuing deficit-covering bonds to help make up for a shortage of financial resources for its policy measures.

It was the prime minister who dissolved the lower house for a snap general election to ask the public if they support his government’s policy measures to combat the declining birth rate and the aging of the population, which he calls a “national crisis.”

If the prime minister is taking the problem seriously, he has a responsibility to secure the resources to finance countermeasures against the problem rather than leaving government debt to future generations.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abe has only said it will be difficult to achieve a primary balance surplus by fiscal 2020, and stopped short of showing a new goal. The ruling bloc has a responsibility to show a clear road map toward achieving fiscal health.

Opposition parties are even more ambiguous about how Japan should restore its fiscal health.

The Party of Hope, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), among others, are insisting that education should be made free of charge, while demanding that the planned consumption tax increase be either postponed or called off.

The Party of Hope has pointed out that the government’s previous goal of achieving a primary balance surplus by fiscal 2020 was unrealistic. The conservative opposition party says it would restore Japan’s fiscal health by increasing tax revenue through the revitalization of the economy and reviewing government spending.

The party also incorporated the introduction of a basic income guarantee system and measures to reduce the burden of medical expenses in its campaign pledge, but these measures are nothing but pork-barreling. The party insists that the number of legislators be slashed, but such a measure would be far from enough to make up for a shortage of financial resources to cover snowballing social security expenses.

In 2012, the LDP, Komeito and the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan agreed to raise the consumption tax and determined the basic framework for government debt repayment in an effort to secure stable financial resources in preparation for the advent of an ultra-aging society. The three-party agreement was reached based on the principle that the issue was a challenge the nation faces and should not be made a political issue, but the accord has since been disregarded.

Interest rates on government bonds have been almost zero because of the Bank of Japan’s ultra-easy monetary policy, as a result of which both the ruling and opposition parties have lost their sense of crisis over Japan’s fiscal condition. Politicians have a responsibility to talk about the need to place extra financial burdens on taxpayers even though such measures would be highly unpopular with voters.

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日本語:“日本の岐路 財政立て直し こぞって後回しの無責任”

 衆院選の各党公約は、いずれも歳出の膨張策を並べているのが特徴だ。財源が問われるが、与党は2019年の消費増税による税収の一部を借金返済に回さないと表明し、野党は増税自体に反対している。

 日本の財政は1000兆円超の借金を抱え、危機的状況にある。それなのに健全化はこぞって後回しだ。

 自民党は過去に公約した基礎的財政収支の20年度黒字化目標を削除した。社会保障や公共事業などの経費を借金に頼らずに賄えるかを示すが、安倍晋三首相は黒字化の前提となる消費増税の税収の一部を教育無償化などに充てると方針転換した。

 首相は「急速に少子高齢化が進む中、2兆円規模の政策を実施し大改革を成し遂げる」と語った。しかし、借金返済を減らすのなら、赤字国債の発行で賄うのと変わらない。

 少子高齢化を「国難」と呼び、政策の信を問うと衆院を解散したのは首相だ。それほど重くみているなら、今後生まれる世代につけ回しせず財源を確保する責任があるはずだ。

 しかも首相は、基礎的財政収支の20年度黒字化について「困難となる」と述べただけで、新たな目標時期も示さなかった。健全化の具体的道筋を示すのは与党の責務だ。放棄したと言われても仕方がない。

 野党はもっとあいまいだ。

 希望の党や立憲民主党、共産党なども教育無償化を打ち出したが、消費増税は凍結・中止を主張する。

 希望は基礎的財政収支の20年度黒字化を非現実的と指摘した。収支の改善は、経済活性化による税収増や歳出の見直しで図るという。

 ベーシックインカム(最低所得保障)導入や医療費などの負担軽減を羅列するが、ばらまきではないか。議員定数削減もうたうが、社会保障の財源不足を埋めるにはほど遠い。

 超高齢化社会に備えて財政の安定を図るため、消費増税と借金返済の枠組みを決めたのが12年の自民、公明、民主の3党合意だ。国家的課題で政争の具にしないとの理念に基づいていたが、ないがしろにされた。

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