(Tokyo Shimbun: February 16, 2016 – p. 6)
Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Feb. 15:
Reduced tax rate
Motohisa Furukawa (Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ]): Don’t you think that a reduced tax rate system will cause confusion upon its introduction?
Finance Minister Taro Aso: Confusion will be inevitable, but it is hard to gauge how severe it will become. We (must) be fully prepared for a certain amount of confusion.
Tetsuo Saito (Komeito Party [Komeito]): What is the significance of the system?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: The system will be able to ease the pain of taxation on each purchase and is have to create a positive impact on spending. The introduction of an 8% sales tax had a greater effect on personal spending more than we anticipated and its repercussions lingered longer than we anticipated. I want the people to understand [the significance of the reduced tax rate system] and we must pay consideration to its impact on spending.
Prevention of long working hours
Akira Nagatsuma (DPJ): Isn’t it better to set a legal ceiling for overtime hours?
Prime Minister Abe: It is extremely important to prevent long working hours. We may need to study the establishment of a new legislation.
Masazumi Gotoda (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): I want a major revolution of the industrial structure to stimulate domestic demand.
Prime Minister Abe: Results have yet to be produced, but we have built a foundation for the private sector to propel growth. The complete liberalization of the electricity retailing business, which will take place in April, is expected to open up new markets worth 8 trillion yen and will usher in new players who will offer quality electricity at reasonable prices.
Remarks on suspension of use of radio waves
Shiori Yamao (DPJ): Have you changed your position so that an order to block radio waves can be issued based on the assessment of only one program?
Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi: Broadcasters air a collection of programs. Unless we check each program, we cannot make an overall assessment. We will take the necessary steps based on reports on factual investigations by a broadcaster.
Prime Minister Abe: It makes sense to make an overall judgment based on each of the programs.
Yuichiro Tamaki (DPJ): If [pension funds] fail to produce revenue, will it cause a reduction in pension benefits?
Prime Minister Abe: If the anticipated revenue is not produced, that will certainly affect payments. But [pension funds] are managed over a long term so sporadic losses will not immediately lead to a reduction in pension payments.
Provisional GDP data
Yoshihiro Suzuki (Vision of Reform [VOR]): Japan’s provisional gross domestic product growth for the three months through December 2015 was in negative territory.
Prime Minister Abe: We believe the situation remains unchanged due to solid fundamentals. We will keep an close eye on market developments, as well as resource-rich countries and emerging economies that are susceptible to trends in the Chinese and global economy.
Compensation payments for nuclear accident victims
Chizuko Takahashi (Japanese Communist Party [JCP]): Tokyo Electric Power Co. has turned down a settlement proposal that the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center has presented to the Namie municipal office in Fukushima Prefecture to call for an increase in compensation payments.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Motoo Hayashi: TEPCO must fulfill its compensation duty till the last moment. That is the basic premise.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
Takashi Takai (Japan Innovation Party [JIP]): Has the resignation of Fiscal and Economy Policy Minister Akira Amari had any impact?
Prime Minister Abe: The TPP has basically been concluded and the negotiations have already ended. The matter will not affect the trade deal.
Masami Kawano (Initiatives from Osaka): Will the conclusion of the treaty have any influence on Japan’s healthcare system?
Prime Minister Abe: The trade pact does not include [clauses] that call for changes in public health insurance systems. Japan has a world-class universal healthcare system and we make sure this system will be passed down to next generation.
Electoral system reform in House of Representatives
Takashi Takai (JIP): We have asked the LDP to reconsider reducing the number of Lower House seats.
Prime Minister Abe: The LDP is carrying out discussions based on the stance of respecting the panel’s proposal. We hope to come up with a conclusion during the current Diet session.