The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 26, 2012)
Noda must have strategy to pursue 'decisive politics'
In his policy speech to the Diet on Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda boldly said, "I will aim...to break away from 'the politics that can't decide,'" and, "This is the time for us to fix our eyes upon the 'big picture' rather than 'political situation.'"
We admire Noda's will and vision. However, the problem lies in whether his administration has a well-planned strategy that will be able to translate his words into reality.
An ordinary Diet session was convened Tuesday.
In his speech, Noda quoted from policy speeches given by two former prime ministers from the Liberal Democratic Party, which was in power before Noda's Democratic Party of Japan took the reins of government.
He quoted former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who said, "It is precisely the responsibility of those in politics vis-a-vis the people to ensure that the ruling and opposition parties conduct thorough discussions...to conduct the affairs of state."
And he referred to a promise former Prime Minister Taro Aso made in his speech: "We will take necessary legal measures by fiscal 2011...to undertake...fundamental reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax."
LDP, Komeito must start talks
Noda likely used these quotes to point out that the current attitude of the LDP contradicts these statements. Indeed, the opposition party has not responded to calls to start discussions on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems.
Because the DPJ itself had repeatedly resisted moves by the LDP and New Komeito when they were the ruling coalition, members of the now opposition parties reacted fiercely to Noda's speech.
However, both the LDP and Komeito need to agree to start talks to rehabilitate the current critical state of the nation's finances and establish a sustainable social security system.
The government and the DPJ, too, must change their attitude.
First, they have to sincerely explain to the public why the consumption tax rate needs to be increased.
Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada last week abruptly announced, "Revenue from the five-percentage-point increase will be used entirely to fund social security programs, and will thus be returned to citizens."
This marked a major shift from the previous stance of using 10 percent of the extra revenue to cover government procurement costs that are expected to increase due to the tax hike.
The Noda administration probably changed its stance in a desperate attempt to make the public more accepting of the consumption tax hike.
However, the administration will likely be challenged over the inconsistency with its previous explanations.
Give unclear manifesto the boot
Komeito has been demanding the government clarify its future vision for the social security system.
In its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election, the DPJ promised to integrate the nation's pension programs and create a minimum guaranteed pension of 70,000 yen a month by 2013.
Komeito says it cannot see any connection between these campaign promises and the comprehensive reform.
In response to Komeito's demand, DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi apparently hopes to bring the two main opposition parties to the discussion table by revealing the full picture of social security reform.
Indeed, it will be necessary for the DPJ to show a rough outline of its plan if it wants to ask for the opposition's understanding on the integrated reform.
However, discussions with opposition parties will not get off the ground if the DPJ insists on trying to implement its manifesto, which does not even clearly indicate how its promises will be funded.
Noda should not forget the manifesto has become a major obstacle to the "politics that makes decisions" he is seeking.
If Noda wants to carry out the reform, he should not hesitate to retract the manifesto.
In his policy speech, Noda quoted an old saying, "Undertaking the actions we call on others to take."
He then pointed out it is important for individuals responsible for political and administrative affairs to put themselves on the line and serve as models.
He is absolutely right.
We hope Noda will exercise strong leadership to cut the number of lower house members and the salaries of national government employees.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 25, 2012)