鳩山対米外交 信頼構築へ言動が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 4, 2009)
Actions speak louder than words on U.S. ties
鳩山対米外交 信頼構築へ言動が問われる(9月4日付・読売社説)

Words alone are not enough to build a relationship of trust between Japan and the United States. Actions also will be important for crafting deeper ties.

During his telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama said the Japan-U.S. security alliance remained the "foundation" of Japan's foreign policy. The two leaders also agreed that their nations would build future-oriented relations. Hatoyama echoed these comments during his meeting Thursday with new U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos.

A call from the U.S. president and a visit by the ambassador so soon after the DPJ's landslide victory in the House of Representatives election indicates that the U.S. government attaches great importance to ties with Japan but, at the same time, is concerned about the future bilateral relationship.

These anxieties stemmed partly from Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece in The New York Times that caused a stir by expressing views that appeared to be critical of the United States.


Article invited confusion

The article, which was published in the newspaper's electronic version as a translated excerpt from an article originally carried in a monthly Japanese magazine, contained comments including, "Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a U.S.-led movement...Consequently, human dignity is lost," and Japan and other Asian nations "want to restrain U.S. political and economic excesses."

Hatoyama later explained that he did not intend to espouse anti-U.S. views in the article. But it is undeniable that the article included expressions critical of the United States and, as a result, gave the impression it was anti-U.S.

Reaction in the United States also has been shaped by mounting distrust against DPJ policy planks such as opposition to the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and calls for reviewing the planned realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

Hatoyama is no longer a mere opposition leader; he will soon become this nation's prime minister. He should remember that his remarks carry considerable weight.

He should not simply stick to underlining differences between his party and the government and ruling parties, as he did while he was an opposition member. Rather, Hatoyama should commit himself to preserving policies that deserve to be kept in place and develop them into better ones.

Hatoyama has a busy--and important--diplomatic schedule coming up. He is expected to hold his first summit meeting with Obama later this month around the time when a U.N. General Assembly meeting is to be held. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to visit Japan in October, and Obama is penciled in to visit Japan in November.


United stance needed

Initially, Hatoyama might only be obliged to pay lip service to the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. But words by themselves will certainly not be enough over the long term.

Tokyo and Washington face a raft of important issues that must be tackled together, such as the fight against terrorism, North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, and reviving the staggering world economy. What role will Japan play to resolve these issues? If the DPJ intends to end the refueling mission, it must present concrete alternative measures.

During talks with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party aimed at striking a deal on forming a coalition, the DPJ proposed that pursuing a close and equal alliance with the United States be included as a policy in a consensus document among the parties. The DPJ apparently wants to make more demands of the United States than ever before.

However, the party should not forget that, as long as it intends to be more willing to speak its mind, it must bear due responsibilities in the international community.

Hatoyama's repeated verbal overtures seeking a relationship of trust with Obama will not amount to anything unless they are backed up with actions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2009)
(2009年9月4日01時28分 読売新聞)

連立政権協議 現実的な安保政策が不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 3, 2009)
New coalition govt needs realistic security policy
連立政権協議 現実的な安保政策が不可欠だ(9月3日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party began talks Wednesday on forming a tripartite coalition government.

However, before forming their coalition, it is vital that they reach a consensus over policy issues, as any outstanding ambiguities will lead to serious problems in the future. All three parties must be prepared to make necessary adjustments to their respective policies.

The DPJ won an unprecedented 308 seats in Sunday's House of Representatives election, though it has less than a single-party majority in the House of Councillors. The DPJ is thus forging a coalition government with the SDP and the PNP in an apparent attempt to ensure policy measures are carried out in a stable manner.

In previous coalition governments, there have been a number of cases in which small parties have stuck steadfastly to their individual policies to stress the significance of their existence within the government. However, this merely caused confusion. The DPJ should learn lessons from such precedents and be wary about making easy concessions.

The SDP is demanding that a ruling coalition organ be established to review bills and other policies before they are approved by the Cabinet. Though this kind of body has existed in the past, it likely would cause problems this time around, as it would contradict the DPJ's policy to make its administration the sole arbiter vis-a-vis policy decisions.

Meanwhile, it is rumored that DPJ Acting President Ichiro Ozawa likely will be given an important post within the DPJ, but not as part of the Cabinet. However, Ozawa has many supporters and wields considerable influence, and if he has a large say in policy decisions, it would lead once again to a dual system of power.


Common policies

The coalition talks are based on "common policies" for six items--including a freeze on the consumption tax rate--that the three parties agreed upon prior to the lower house election.

However, the real issues to be thrashed out during the talks are foreign and security policies. These topics were not included in the common policies because the parties' respective stances are so different.

For example, the DPJ believes that Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels should continue their refueling mission in the Indian Ocean until January, but the SDP is demanding an immediate pullout.

In addition, the DPJ approves of the MSDF's antipiracy mission in waters off Somalia, while the SDP insists the Japan Coast Guard should be running the operation.

The refueling mission represents Japan's sole contribution of personnel to international efforts against terrorism, and the nation's efforts are highly appreciated by the countries concerned. We believe it is a matter of course that this mission continue, even after January.

Furthermore, it is unrealistic for the JCG to take the place of the MSDF in the antipiracy mission in light of differences in their respective equipment and backup systems.


Wasted negotiations?

A more pressing concern is that both the DPJ and the SDP have policies to review the plan to relocate U.S. forces in Japan. According to the plan, the transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the shores of Camp Schwab in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture, would occur five years from now.

If this planned transfer is canceled, 13 years of negotiations between the Japanese and U.S. governments will have been for naught, and the return of the air station site to Japan will be deferred. In addition, a plan to relocate 8,000 marines to Guam--a measure aimed at alleviating burdens on people in the prefecture--would be scrapped.

It is completely understandable that a U.S. State Department spokesman on Monday said Washington will never renegotiate the relocation plan.

In the world of diplomacy, it is not possible under normal circumstances for one nation's desires to be completely realized. Therefore, the DPJ should never compromise its flexibility nor reduce its options in diplomatic affairs by sticking to the various stances it adopted as the opposition when it was criticizing the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2009)
(2009年9月3日01時30分 読売新聞)

自民党再出発 後継総裁選びを急ぐべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 2, 2009)
Defeat leaves LDP at political crossroads
自民党再出発 後継総裁選びを急ぐべきだ(9月2日付・読売社説)

The Liberal Democratic Party has begun to choose a new party president to succeed Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has announced he will step down as party leader to take responsibility for the LDP's crushing defeat in Sunday's House of Representatives election.

Can the LDP play a role in a system in which power alternates between two major political parties? Can the LDP fulfill its role as an opposition party and keep a close eye on the administration led by Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama? The LDP still has serious responsibilities to live up to even after being relegated to the opposition benches.

The LDP must quickly select a new party president to lead its reconstruction.

However, the LDP intends to put off the party presidential election until after mid-September when a special Diet session is to be called to elect the new prime minister. According to the LDP, the purpose is to listen to the opinions of the prefectural chapters and other local party organizations, and rank-and-file party members, and to reflect them in the party presidential election. But under such circumstances, LDP lawmakers will vote for the current prime minister and LDP president, Taro Aso, in the Diet session.

It is a little pathetic that, even as a makeshift measure, the LDP will recommend as prime minster the party president who will step down from the post after voters said "no" to him in the general election.


Antipathy toward Aso

Several LDP lawmakers oppose the postponement of the party presidential election, asserting that they would rather cast a blank ballot than have to write "Aso" in the Diet's vote on the prime minister. If the party falls into confusion, it could lead to a party split. The LDP should take the current situation seriously.

It is important to listen to the voices of members of local party chapters and other related organizations, but does the LDP have a month to spare to reflect these opinions in the party presidential election?

It took only about 10 days to choose a new party president when changing from former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa to Yohei Kono, and from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. It is time for the LDP to select a new party president as soon as possible and prepare to face the Hatoyama administration.

Of course, when doing so, it is natural that the LDP should seek input from party chapters and members across the country and reflect those opinions in the efforts to reconstruct the party.


Party on the brink

The LDP faces the greatest crisis since its foundation. Whether a leader who can clearly display his intentions and vision for party reconstruction will emerge is of paramount importance. Politicians who are always keeping an eye on the movements of party factions are not qualified to lead.

To rebuild the party, it is indispensable to thoroughly review the reasons for its crushing defeat in the general election.

Although the direction of the party's fundamental principles and policies is not basically wrong, the market fundamentalism and excessive structural changes under the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi have invited the expansion of the income gap and economically exhausted provincial areas. It also is necessary to review the "theatrical politics," or sensationalist political approach seen under the Koizumi administration.

Some observers point out that the LDP has never been an organized political party because support groups for individual party lawmakers virtually act as party chapters. In addition, the LDP election campaign strategy, which has more and more come to rely on coalition partner New Komeito and Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist organization that is New Komeito's main supporter, has weakened the foundations of the LDP's original support bases.

The public will be watching closely to see whether the LDP can make a strong comeback and regain control of the government. If the party remains stupefied for long, the reputation of the LDP, which had long been a ruling party, will be ruined.

(From the Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2009)
(2009年9月2日01時41分 読売新聞)

政権移行始動 基本政策は継続性が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 1, 2009)
Continuity important for basic policies
政権移行始動 基本政策は継続性が重要だ(9月1日付・読売社説)

Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama has begun the process of launching a new administration. It is important for Hatoyama, first and foremost, to divide the policies pledged in the DPJ's manifesto into those that should be implemented immediately and those that the party should take time to fine-tune.


The DPJ has said that a new "national strategy bureau" that it will establish under the direct control of the prime minister will serve as a control tower for the government's budget compilation and foreign policy.

The central government ministries and agencies have submitted their respective budgetary requests for fiscal 2010 ahead of Monday's deadline. The DPJ, however, plans to review the budgetary request guidelines, which were approved by the Cabinet on July 1.

A total of 7.1 trillion yen will be needed in the next fiscal year to fund the child benefit program and other policies that the DPJ pledged in its manifesto. Although the DPJ has promised that an "administrative reform council," another new government body the DPJ plans to establish, will eliminate wasteful spending, can the necessary funds be squeezed out merely through belt-tightening measures?

The DPJ also is studying making savings by cutting some expenditures in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget and appropriating the saved funds for the fiscal 2010 budget. But the party should deal carefully with the review of the supplementary budget, which is supporting the nation's economy.

Since the establishment of the national strategy bureau requires a revision of a related law, Hatoyama plans to first create a strategy office, which can be set up under a new government ordinance, and have it present the outline of the fiscal 2010 budget. Wasting time in creating the new organization, however, will end up delaying budget compilation.

Hatoyama should take to heart the importance of implementing economic measures speedily.

After being appointed prime minister at a special Diet session that is scheduled to be convened in the middle of this month, Hatoyama plans to visit the United States, where he will undertake summit diplomacy.

Hatoyama is scheduled to attend summit-level meetings on climate change and nuclear nonproliferation at the United Nations in New York and address the U.N. General Assembly. He also is scheduled to attend the Group of 20 financial summit meeting in Pittsburgh.


Emissions pledge unrealistic

Observers, however, have already voiced concerns about how Hatoyama will handle a midterm target for reducing Japan's emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases by the end of 2020.

The DPJ has proposed that the emissions of such gases be reduced by 25 percent from the 1990 levels.

If Hatoyama, as prime minister, repeats the DPJ's pledge at the General Assembly meeting or any other key international meetings, it is possible that Japan will be required to meet this numerical target under a successor treaty to the 2008-12 Kyoto Protocol being negotiated for conclusion by the end of December.

The goal of reducing gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 levels will not be attainable merely with halfhearted energy-saving efforts. It requires innovative technological development. But there are limits to what Japan can achieve.

Emissions cuts have economic side effects, such as downward pressure on gross domestic product, and damaging people's livelihoods.

The DPJ should take this power transfer as an opportunity to review the midterm target from a pragmatic perspective. At least, it should avoid the foolish act of constraining itself by presenting such a high target as an international pledge.

Hatoyama has stated that a DPJ-led administration will need to respect the need for continuity in diplomatic and security policies, to a certain extent.


民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ (2/1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 31, 2009)
DPJ must be responsible, live up to expectations
民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ(8月31日付・読売社説)

People's dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democratic Party's politics and their expectation that a new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan can bring "change" has ushered in a historic change in power in this country.

 The DPJ romped to a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election Sunday, handing the LDP its most devastating defeat since the party was formed.

This is the first time since the end of World War II that an opposition party has won a single-party majority in the lower house and brought about a change in administration.

DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, who is expected to be named prime minister in the special Diet session to be convened soon, will bear the heavy responsibility of managing the country.


Disappointment and weariness

The largest cause of this sea change in public sentiment lies in the LDP itself.

Policies taken by the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, which espoused the importance of market principles, widened disparities in society, devastated the country's medical and nursing care services and impoverished many rural areas.

Koizumi's successors--Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda--abruptly resigned as prime minister.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, who took over from Fukuda, suffered a string of self-imposed setbacks with verbal gaffes and other blunders that raised questions about his ability to serve as prime minister before he could correct the policy line taken by the Koizumi administration.

The LDP lost its status as the largest party in the House of Councillors after a thumping defeat in the 2007 election. Subsequently, the LDP's support organizations and industrial groups that traditionally supported the party began to increasingly distance themselves from the LDP.

In short, it can be said that the LDP's historic defeat was brought about by the collapse of its structural reforms that went too far, its leaders' failure to live up to their responsibilities and their lack of leadership ability, the alienation of its traditional support base, and weariness and disappointment with the administration that had been in power for a long time.

In addition to criticizing the LDP's failings, the DPJ wooed discontented voters by putting forward policies including support for households, such as a monthly child allowance for families and a gradual phasing out of highway tolls, as well as adopting election campaign tactics that included fielding a diverse range of candidates.

In the previous lower house election, the LDP was blessed with strong and favorable winds whipped up by the postal service privatization debate and the divisions wrought by the party's decision to put "assassin" candidates on the official party ticket to run against those LDP members who opposed the Koizumi-led postal reform drive and were forced off the party ticket.

The winds of change then took a sudden turn, swinging behind the DPJ, which advocates a change in power--and the favorable conditions have remained since the dissolution of the lower house, culminating in heavy damage to the LDP's junior coalition partner, New Komeito, too.

This development should be interpreted as meaning that the overwhelming sentiment among voters was to give the DPJ a chance to hold the reins of power, despite anxiety in the electorate about how a DPJ-led administration might fare.

Despite the DPJ's landslide victory, however, it does not mean voters have given the party an open-ended mandate.


民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ (2/2)

Review election pledges

A new cabinet to be formed by Hatoyama is to carry out policy measures based on the schedule presented in the DPJ's election manifesto. However, the new government should not stick to its "election" pledges so much so as to destabilize people's lives.

Its most important task is to put the Japanese economy, which is now in the process of recovering from a serious recession, on a steady road to recovery. Given the deteriorating employment situation, public spending on economic pump-priming measures must be continued seamlessly.

When drafting the next fiscal year's budget, the new administration needs to give top priority to boosting the economy.

In the realm of foreign and security policy, the change of government will not be accepted as an excuse to tear up international agreements. The new government must seek to achieve consistency in this country's foreign policy and firmly maintain the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Since it does not have a single-party majority in the upper house, the DPJ will start talks soon with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party about the formation of a coalition government.

One major concern is the huge gap between the DPJ and the SDP regarding their basic policies on foreign and security affairs, including the participation of the Self-Defense Forces in international peacekeeping activities.

A political situation in which a small party can use its casting vote to push around a major party would be extremely harmful. The DPJ should approach the talks determined to scrap plans for a coalition with the SDP if they cannot reach an agreement on fundamental policies.

The DPJ has set a goal of "bidding farewell to bureaucrat-led policy-making."

But the DPJ should not be under the illusion that bureaucrats will dance to the party's tune simply by establishing a politician-led "National Strategy Bureau" or by assigning a bevy of lawmakers to positions within each government agency or ministry.

Lawmakers will be scrutinized for their ability to use bureaucrats to serve their purposes, rather than to act hostilely against bureaucrats. Lawmakers should know that only when they win the trust of bureaucrats will they be able to effectively implement policies.


Can LDP make comeback?

The LDP was formed in 1955 through a marriage of conservative parties to counter the Japan Socialist Party, which in that year merged the rightist and leftist socialist parties.

The ideological clash between the LDP and JSP that was dominant in those days has since evaporated, and the JSP the nation knew then no longer exists. The LDP's crushing defeat in Sunday's election completed the demise of the so-called 1955 political system that centered around the LDP and the socialists.

The LDP must brace itself for an extended period in the opposition camp. The party will need to dust itself off and rebuild itself almost from scratch if it wants to be a viable political party that can occupy the position of one of the two major political parties--together with the DPJ.

The LDP was temporarily ousted from power in 1993 in the wake of money-for-favor political scandals. Since then, it has remained at the helm of the government by forming coalitions with the JSP, Komeito and other parties.

The LDP has been forced by the voters to start over--after having neglected to reform itself.

The party will be pressed to drastically change everything from its political philosophy to its policies and its structure under a new party leader who will replace Aso ahead of the upper house election next summer.

The LDP must present healthy, sound policies and bolster its ability to counter the DPJ-led administration if it wants to be a key player that can level criticism at the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2009)
(2009年8月31日05時28分 読売新聞)

衆院選:民主単独で300議席超へ 鳩山政権誕生が確実に


(Mainichi Japan) August 30, 2009
Opposition Democratic Party of Japan set to win election in landslide
衆院選:民主単独で300議席超へ 鳩山政権誕生が確実に

The largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is set to score a landslide victory in Sunday's general election, likely capturing more than 300 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives, according to Mainichi Shimbun exit polls.

The DPJ is certain to take over the reins of government, putting an end to the 10-year-old coalition government comprised of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito (NKP).

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama will be elected prime minister at a special Diet session that must be called within 30 days after the polling day under the Constitution, and form a Cabinet.

The LDP is expected to suffer a humiliating defeat, possibly falling short of 100 seats.

The focal point of Sunday's general election has been whether the DPJ will take over the reins of government or the LDP-NKP coalition will stay in power.

Vote counting began immediately after almost all of about 51,000 polling stations across the country closed at 8 p.m.

As of 10:40 p.m., the DPJ had won 243 seats, the LDP 62, NKP 11, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) five, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) two, the People's New Party (PNP) two, the Your Party (YP) three and the New Party Nippon (NPN) one, while the Japan Renaissance Party (JRP) had won no seats. Four independents have also been elected to the chamber.

All winners in the nation's 300 single-seat constituencies (SSC) will be announced by about 1 a.m. on Monday and all those elected in the proportional representation blocs (PRB) will be determined by around 3 a.m.

The voter turnout was 53 percent as of 7:30 p.m., down 2.65 points from the previous election in 2005. However, as the number of those who cast absentee ballots was more than 50 percent more than the previous election, final voter turnout is expected to be above that in the previous election, which stood at 67.51 percent.

A confidence vote among the public for nine Supreme Court justices, who were appointed after the previous Lower House election, was also held simultaneously with the general election.





毎日新聞 2009年8月30日 21時02分(最終更新 8月30日 22時08分)

きょう投票 1票が日本の進路を決める

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 30, 2009)
An election that will chart Japan's future course
きょう投票 1票が日本の進路を決める(8月30日付・読売社説)

Which political party and which candidates should be entrusted to take the helm of this nation?
Today, Aug. 30, is the polling day for the 45th House of Representatives election. It is an election that will determine Japan's future path.

Voters must choose whether to continue under the current administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito, or to switch to a new administration centered on the Democratic Party of Japan.

The election campaign has focused not only on a straight evaluation of the accomplishments and policies of each party. Voters also have had to weigh up which party most deserves to govern.

The LDP had to fight the election campaign in the face of a strong voter backlash.

After an overwhelming victory in the lower house election in 2005 under the administration of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the premiership changed hands three times, passing to Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and then Taro Aso. The party was subject to persistent criticism for passing the reins of government from one party head to another.

Since taking power in September, Prime Minister Taro Aso showed himself to be inconsistent and indecisive at a number of crucial moments, such as when he failed to explain what the flat-sum cash benefit program was meant to achieve. Each time he floundered, he pushed down the LDP's approval rating.

For the DPJ, doubts have been raised over its ability to govern due to its composition--a motley collection of politicians from different parties ranging from conservatives on one side of the political spectrum to former members of the now-defunct Japan Socialist Party on the other.
In addition, some observers have expressed caution over the party's desire to form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party, which has very different national security policies from the DPJ.


Vote on policies, not feelings

Some observers have said that the vote likely will reflect dissatisfaction with the LDP or anxiety over the DPJ, rather than voters' active decision to continue with an administration formed of the LDP-Komeito coalition or move to one centered on the DPJ.

However, the results of the lower house election will have a direct bearing on this nation's future.
It cannot be correct to decide which party and politician to choose simply on the basis of one's discontent, anxiety or a fleeting emotion.

Policies must, first and foremost, be the key criteria for deciding who to vote for.

Each party conducted its campaign by first drawing up a platform covering the policies each would implement during the four-year House of Representatives term.

Policies on pensions, health care, child-rearing and education, which are of great interest to voters in this nation that is rapidly aging and has a very low birthrate, as well as funding for those policies, surfaced as major issues in the election campaign.

The LDP stressed it would introduce drastic reforms of the taxation system, including an increase of the consumption tax rate, to provide stable financing for the social security system. The LDP did not clarify when it would raise the consumption tax, saying only that it would occur after the nation achieved 2 percent year-on-year economic growth.

The DPJ listed many schemes that would provide direct payment of benefits to households as a way of boosting spending, such as child-rearing allowances. It said it would fund the measures by cutting spending in other areas, for example suspending nonessential projects. The party said it would not raise the consumption tax rate before the next lower house election.


Leadership important

Differences among the two key parties in the fields of diplomacy and national security are conspicuous, such as whether to press on with the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

It is important to calmly assess the persuasiveness of each party's policies. We hope voters will thoroughly examine each party's stance.

雇用と物価 デフレに至る悪循環を防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 29, 2009)
Deflationary pressures must be nipped in bud
雇用と物価 デフレに至る悪循環を防げ(8月29日付・読売社説)

Utmost caution must be exercised to prevent falling prices and the worsening employment situation from allowing deflation to take a vicelike grip on the nation's economy.

The nation's key consumer price index in July fell 2.2 percent from a year earlier, marking the first fall in the 2 percent range in the postwar period.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in July climbed to a postwar high of 5.7 percent, up 0.3 percentage point from the previous month.

The worsening employment situation is eroding workers' incomes. Tightening the purse strings at home leads to sluggish sales of products and, in turn, to falling prices. As companies struggle with falling sales, they resort to restructuring and other measures to cut costs, exacerbating the grim employment situation. The latest government figures on prices and employment show that a vicious cycle of deflationary pressures is becoming increasingly real.

Whichever party takes power after Sunday's House of Representatives election, the new administration must do everything it can to arrest these deflationary pressures and boost the economy.

The sharp price falls are due mainly to the drop in oil prices that soared last year. Gasoline prices fell as much as 30 percent from last year, lowering overall prices about 1 percent.

But prices, excluding those of energy-related products, fell 0.9 percent. The rate of fall was about the same as that in fiscal 2001 during a serious deflationary period.


Domestic demand weak

The current deflationary trend should not be waved off as a temporary phenomenon caused by the correction in oil prices after they skyrocketed last year. Rather, weak domestic demand should be considered the major cause of falling prices.

The nation's real gross domestic product for the April-June period returned to positive growth for the first time in five quarters. However, the improvement was mainly attributed to a recovery in exports and policy initiatives under the government's stimulus package that, for example, increased sales of energy-saving home appliances. Worryingly, overall domestic demand remains weak.

Boosting consumption is critical for a full economic recovery. However, sales at department stores and supermarkets have been lethargic for a prolonged period, and sales at convenience stores, which had been brisk, registered a record plunge in July.

Consumers are cutting back spending on foods and other daily necessities. Both the number of shoppers and the amount each shopper spent at convenience stores decreased last month.


BOJ has role to play

Fierce price wars might be good news for consumers, but excessive discounting would add to a deflationary spiral, in which the economy heads south while prices fall.

For the time being, we think it is necessary to bolster domestic demand through economic pump-priming and employment support measures.

The Democratic Party of Japan has indicated it will overhaul the supplementary budget compiled for boosting the economy if it takes power. We agree that it is important to eliminate wasteful spending, but austerity measures such as drastic cuts in spending on public works projects should be avoided.

The Bank of Japan's monetary policy has a crucial role to play. Although the central bank has kept its key interest rate near zero, real interest rates will rise if prices fall. This would sap the impact of the bank's low interest rate policy.

If the deflationary trend gets stronger, the central bank should consider taking additional measures, such as increased purchases of long-term government bonds and the introduction of a quantitative easing policy setting a target for the outstanding balance of current account deposits held by private financial institutions at the central bank.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2009)
(2009年8月29日01時03分 読売新聞)

新型インフル ワクチンだけには頼れない

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 28, 2009)
Vaccine isn't the only weapon against new flu
新型インフル ワクチンだけには頼れない(8月28日付・読売社説)

Expectations are rising that infections of the H1N1 strain of influenza A and further outbreaks could be prevented once the vaccine for the new flu becomes available.

However, it is far from a foregone conclusion that things will pan out as expected. Even past epidemics of seasonal influenza have not been repulsed by a vaccination program.

Of course, vaccination can work to a certain extent. During ordinary flu seasons, vaccinated people will develop only relatively mild symptoms even if they become infected with the disease.

Medical experts also point out that the spread of infection could slow if a large number of people are vaccinated. If the number of patients falling into critical condition is reduced thanks to a vaccination program, front-line doctors and hospitals would have more time to treat flu patients in general.

However, the flu vaccine has the major drawback of providing only weak preventive effects. This is different from the vaccine for measles, which can prevent the disease developing once a person is inoculated. Furthermore, vaccination in general has very minor side effects.

The government must explain the limited effectiveness of the flu vaccination to the public. The most important thing is to help people understand that inoculation is not the only countermeasure against the new influenza strain.


Prevention better than cure

Obviously, preventing infection is the best way to defang the new-flu threat. Regularly washing one's hands and gargling are quintessential rules for preventing infection. Members of the public also must bear in mind that they will be unable to avoid infection if the virus spreads widely because most people are not immune to the new flu.

However, it also should be remembered that most people, excluding small children and people with kidney and other chronic diseases, would likely display only mild symptoms even if they catch the new flu. Of course, people with mild symptoms should be careful not to spread this disease.

Meanwhile, the shortage of vaccine for the seasonal influenza has often caused widespread consternation.

Worryingly, the same problem has become apparent regarding the new-flu strain. Domestic manufacturers are working flat-out to produce a vaccine for the new flu, but they are unable to produce enough to meet the nation's requirements. Japan reportedly faces a shortage of about 20 million doses. However, panic over the new-flu vaccine must be avoided.


Govt must pull out all stops

The government must immediately discuss and decide who should be given priority in receiving vaccinations. It makes perfect sense that medical workers and people likely to develop serious symptoms should they catch the new flu be given priority. However, the current projected supply of vaccine is not sufficient even to cover these high-risk groups.

The government should take every possible measure to acquire enough vaccine to combat the new flu.

Importing vaccine from the United States and European countries has been touted as the best solution to meet this shortfall. However, the government has not yet settled on measures to confirm the safety of imported vaccine and detailed procedures to deal with possible side effects.

Until 15 years ago, the government required every primary and middle school student to be vaccinated against influenza. However, mandatory vaccination was terminated because of lingering doubts about its effectiveness and possible side effects.

The government must tread carefully to ensure a sense of mistrust against flu vaccine does not take hold among the public once again.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2009)
(2009年8月28日01時16分 読売新聞)






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05 謝罪の言葉と答え方
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23 日時・場所・天候を尋ねるとき
24 その他

01 あいさつ
02 別れのあいさつ
03 声をかけるとき
04 感謝の言葉と答え方
05 謝罪の言葉と答え方
06 聞き直すとき
07 相手の言うことがわからないとき
08 うまく言えないとき
09 一般的なあいづち
10 よくわからないときの返事
11 強めのあいづち
12 自分について述べるとき
13 相手のことを尋ねるとき
14 頼みごとをするとき
15 申し出・依頼を断るとき
16 許可を求めるとき
17 説明してもらうとき
18 確認を求めるとき
19 状況を知りたいとき
20 値段の尋ね方と断り方
21 急いでもらいたいとき
22 待ってもらいたいとき
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