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Editorial: Politicians on all sides must hold deeper discussions on Japan’s course

It cannot be said that discussions have got down to the nitty-gritty on crucial issues such as the response to an infectious disease and fiscal consolidation. The government and the ruling and opposition parties all must discuss these matters from a broad perspective.


Party leaders have started a question-and-answer session centering on the policy speech Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga delivered earlier. This is the first full-blooded Diet debate since the Suga Cabinet was launched.


Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for ensuring that sufficient government funds are made available for social security and employment measures. “We would guarantee essential basic services for everyone necessary to protect their lives and livelihoods,” Edano said.


He specifically mentioned raising the wages of childcare workers and boosting the number of employees at public health centers and other such facilities.


Suga has touted a concept of “self-help, mutual help and public help,” an approach advocating the importance of self-reliant efforts. Edano likely wanted to emphasize his party’s basic policy of expanding the government’s role.


Among economic measures floated to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Edano called for temporarily exempting people whose annual income is ¥10 million or less from paying income tax, and lowering or removing the consumption tax for a limited time.


The coronavirus has yet to be fully brought under control, and many companies remain uncertain about whether they can continue operating. Reinforcing social safety nets, including support for people living in hardship, is important. However, calling for large tax cuts without showing where necessary financial resources will come from is too simplistic.


Bolstering public services is extremely costly. Simply changing budget allocations as Edano has suggested will not raise more financial resources.


Economic growth is essential for boosting tax revenue. If the CDPJ intends to portray itself as a responsible political party, Edano should present a compelling plan.


Suga fired back at Edano’s argument by saying the impact of income tax exemptions would not reach low-income earners, and that the consumption tax was a necessary source of funds for social security.


The government must balance reining in the infectious disease with keeping the economy running, and work hard to erase the apprehension felt by the public.


When pressed about his reasons for rejecting the appointment of several candidates recommended to sit on the Science Council of Japan, Suga said he would refrain from commenting on personnel matters. Suga did add that few council members were young or from the private sector, and that there was an imbalance among its members in terms of the universities they attended and their backgrounds.


Suga probably intended to point out problems in the council’s organization and the appropriateness of its personnel appointments, but his decision was inconsistent with the government’s previous position that its approval of such appointments would be a formality. It is vital for Suga to provide a clear explanation on this issue.


Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Seiko Noda requested the swift passage of a bill to amend the national referendum law that stipulates the procedures for revising the Constitution.


Even the opposition parties should have few objections to this bill, which would make voting in referendums more convenient. The House of Representatives and the House of Councillors each have a Commission on the Constitution. Both commissions should discuss this issue and the bill should be quickly passed.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 29, 2020.

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