A plenary meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Research Council on Dec. 5 approved, in principle, the government’s draft 2 trillion yen policy package for “revolution in human resources development.” However, dissenting opinions were also voiced on free preschool education, which is the main feature of the package, reflecting a persistent sense of alarm over the Kantei’s dominance in the policymaking process.
In the copies of the draft policy package handed out at the meeting, the portions incorporating the LDP’s recommendations were marked in red, and officials of the Finance Ministry, the Cabinet Office, and other government offices explained that the LDP’s views were given maximum consideration. This was assessed positively and the proposed policies were approved, in principle.
On the other hand, the government’s putting off making a decision on whether unauthorized daycare centers should be included in the free education scheme until a meeting of an expert panel next summer was criticized by House of Councillors member Junzo Yamamoto, who said: “Why can’t the LDP or the government make a decision? Is it right to leave everything up to expert panels?”
Certain LDP members have pointed out that by sidestepping the main sticking points, “The Kantei may bypass the LDP and decide on a policy through the expert panel,” according to a mid-ranking Diet member.
Participants in the meeting also asked the government to explain the policies to the people. For now, preschool education will only be made free for 0-2 year olds from households exempted from residence tax. House of Representatives member Naokazu Takemoto remarked , “This sounds close-fisted, so we need to take special care when explaining it to the voters.”
The government also plans to implement “de facto free tuition” for private high schools, a campaign pledge made by Komeito in the recent Lower House election. Masaaki Akaike, director of the LDP Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Division, said: “This must not have ramifications on the budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology,” cautioning the government not to disrupt budgetary balance on account of consideration for Komeito.
The government will make a cabinet decision on the policy package on Dec. 8. While the LDP is poised to cooperate with the government in designing systems for the policies, a senior party official says: “We’ll see what the government comes up with,” indicating he will be watching the government’s next steps.