02 tháng 1 2012

Japan faces many challenges in 2012

Japan faces many challenges in 2012


The world is in a nearly continuous state of crisis.
In Europe, a sovereign debt crisis has ballooned into a financial crisis that is shaking the world economy. The United States is beset by huge budget deficits. These problems have slowed down the economies of China and India.
Despite warnings from economists that the value of government bonds could nosedive unless state finances are put on a surer footing, politicians have been unable to persuade their constituents to shoulder additional burdens. Flagging markets and leaders at the mercy of the popular will are stuck in a dangerous embrace that is only serving to amplify the crisis.
The debt problems of a few European countries are at the bottom of the crisis, and urgently need to be solved. The governments of these states must act by any means possible to reduce their fiscal deficits and prevent their bonds from losing value.
===
Revitalize economy
Today marks the first New Year's Day since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011.
The unprecedented natural disaster left deep scars on the national psyche and on society. Cleaning up the debris left behind by the earthquake and tsunami has not proceeded smoothly, and the reconstruction of disaster-hit communities is just beginning. The catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has not been settled completely, and people who fled their homes to escape the nuclear crisis are scattered around the country.
Our nation's economy is suffering from the dual blows of a super-strong yen and low stock prices caused by the financial confusion in the United States and Europe. Furthermore, the transfer of manufacturing facilities overseas is accelerating--exacerbating the hollowing-out of the nation's industrial base. We hope the economy can return to a growth track through full-fledged reconstruction of the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
To realize this, the nation's political world must recover from its state of dysfunction. The people are questioning the capability of the Democratic Party of Japan-led government to govern the country. We call on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to set a course toward raising the consumption tax rate so social security programs can be adequately funded. Noda also must promote free trade, a key to economic growth, and establish a realistic energy policy.
The only way political progress can be made in the divided Diet, with the opposition controlling the House of Councillors, is through agreements among the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. To ensure the government runs smoothly, the DPJ must talk with the other parties and build consensus on issues.
===
Fiscal collapse looms
There is no magic wand that will move politics forward.
The next House of Representatives election could be held this year, but this should not stop the DPJ, LDP and Komeito from transcending party interests to find common ground. In today's political world, a leader needs unflagging resolve, the ability to build consensus and enough persuasiveness to convince the public to bear the necessary pain.
The European financial crisis, triggered by Greece's sovereign debt crisis, is not "a fire on the other side of the river." Our own nation is in the worst fiscal shape among developed countries, with nearly 900 trillion yen in combined national and local government debt--twice the gross domestic product.
Japanese government bonds have so far been seen as less risky than those of European countries, which depend heavily on foreign investment. On the contrary, the Japanese people have personal financial assets worth nearly 1.5 yen quadrillion, and more than 90 percent of government bonds are owned by domestic institutional and individual investors.
However, in real terms the value of the nation's personal financial assets is only 1.1 yen quadrillion after subtracting personal debts such as housing loans. This is only 200 trillion yen more than the amount of public debt. If the issuance of government bonds continues to increase at the current pace, and the aging population begins withdrawing their savings to live on, the financial assets of the Japanese public will no longer be able to cover government bonds.
Despite the fiscal problems and the damage to the economy by the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese yen still enjoys strong international confidence. Many believe Japan has room to raise its consumption tax rate into the 15 percent to 25 percent range, similar to the rates in many countries in Europe.
However, if investors begin fleeing Japanese bonds, their interest rates will rise and the increased debt-servicing costs would further bloat the government's debt. If Japan were to fall into a vicious cycle of economic doldrums and reduced tax revenue, such as a drop in corporate capital spending caused by consumers tightening their purse strings, the nightmare scenario--fiscal collapse of the government--could become reality.
This is why the government must quickly return to fiscal health by increasing the consumption tax rate.
Noda has pledged the consumption tax rate would be "raised to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October 2015." He plans to submit bills related to this purpose to the Diet at the end of March.
We expect the prime minister to seek the understanding of the public by explaining to them carefully that a consumption tax hike is the only way to achieve a sustainable social security system, which includes public pensions, as well as medical and nursing care programs.
===
Regional tensions
Integrated reform of the social security and tax systems is a significant policy issue that can only be carried out with cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties, no matter what party is running the government. The LDP and Komeito should cooperate to pass the reforms through the Diet, locking their sights on taking back control of the government afterward.
To overcome the crisis, lawmakers must make a clean break from populism, no longer bowing to the public's wishes for reduced burdens and increased benefits.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the seas are only getting rougher.
China has been continuing its military expansion and has deployed ballistic missiles able to strike Japan and other countries, and is hurrying to develop a next-generation fighter jet. In the South China Sea and the East China Sea, China has repeatedly tangled with Japan, the United States and Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.
Added to this, North Korea is in the middle of a transfer of power, raising the possibility of political turbulence.
Japan must choose the path of deepening its alliance with the United States, which has shifted its foreign policy focus to Asia, and improve defense capabilities in the Nansei Islands, which include the Okinawa Islands.
Thus, it is vital for the government to solve problems related to Okinawa Prefecture.
Japan and the United States have agreed to transfer the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture. To realize the agreement, the government must regain the trust of the prefecture by lessening its burden in hosting U.S. military bases through noise reduction and other measures, as well as adopting regional development programs.
Cabinet ministers concerned, and of course Noda himself, must fly to the prefecture to persuade Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and others to agree to the transfer.
===
Revive farm sector
Promoting economic partnership relations will also greatly contribute to reinforcing the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Noda has already announced his intention to enter into discussions with other countries concerned toward participation in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade agreement. This framework would harness the economic vitality of Asia, and is indispensable for Japan's growth strategy.
If it is approved to participate in the negotiations, Japan will be able to commit itself to the formulation of new trade rules. The government will need to take a strategic approach to the negotiations so the new rules will strengthen Japan's national interests.
Farmers and other people related to the agricultural industry have opposed Japan's participation in the TPP talks. The basic principle of the framework is the abolition of tariffs without exceptions, and opponents say such a situation would leave the nation's agriculture sector unprotected.
However, the nation's farm industry will deteriorate for certain if the situation is left untouched. Participation in the TPP talks raises the possibility of agricultural reforms such as farmland integration and providing aid to people who wish to take part in the industry. If Japan strengthens its international agricultural competitiveness, not only will the rice market expand, but growth will occur in the markets for other high-quality farm products.
We must see the TPP not as a "pinch," but rather a "chance" for revival.
The nation's energy policy, including power generation, will play a central role in Japan's reconstruction and economic growth.
Amid the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, other nuclear reactors around the country have been unable to restart even after finishing regularly scheduled inspections. This has caused serious power shortages, and it is now feared that all of the nation's 54 nuclear reactors will be idled by May.
Such a situation--the loss of 30 percent of the nation's electricity generation capacity--should be avoided at all costs.
===
Ensure nuclear safety
Power companies have been managing to cope with the situation through expanding thermal power generation, but rising prices of fuel, such as natural gas, have influenced power generation costs. The generation of electricity through renewable energy sources such as solar and wind only account for 1 percent of total supply, and it will take years until these industries become mature enough to replace nuclear power.
It is necessary for nuclear reactors to be restarted quickly after they have been confirmed safe. To achieve this, the government must make efforts to win the cooperation of local governments that host nuclear plants. Delaying the resumption of reactor operations will prompt businesses to move production bases overseas to avoid risks such as blackouts and power shortages, thereby spurring the hollowing-out of the industrial sector.
In contrast to former Prime Minister Naoto Kan's irresponsible attempt to break with nuclear power, Noda has encouraged practical energy policies such as promoting exports of nuclear power plants and technology. This is an appropriate course of action.
China and other emerging economies have not abandoned plans to build new nuclear power plants. If Japanese firms can develop new and safer reactors and export them in packages bundled with technology and expertise in the form of specialized training programs, some of the confidence Japan lost in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis can be regained.
However, if Japan pursues a policy of eliminating its domestic nuclear plants, its ability to export nuclear technology will be harmed, which could lead to a brain drain in engineers.
The crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was declared under control in December, but it will take 30 to 40 years to fully decommission the reactors. Along with this challenging work, personnel need to be fostered who can preserve and build on Japan's nuclear technology and expertise.
Even if sun and wind power play larger roles, the option of replacing obsolete nuclear plants with safer and higher-performing models should not be ruled out.
The optimal combination of power sources should be decided based on an overall judgment concerning supply stability, costs, environmental impact and other factors. Such efforts will help avoid future power crises.
Japan must not allow any of the above issues--the consumption tax, Okinawa, TPP and nuclear power--to remain undealt with. The world is watching to see whether Japan will move forward toward peace and prosperity after overcoming the scars left by the March 11 disaster.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 1, 2012)
(Jan. 1, 2012)
本文です

「危機」乗り越える統治能力を ポピュリズムと決別せよ(1月1日付・読売社説)

 世界的に「危機」が常態化しつつある。
 欧州では、財政危機が金融危機に拡大し、世界経済を揺るがしている。米国も巨大な財政赤字に苦しんでいる。その影響で中国やインドでも景気が減速し始めた。
 財政再建に努めないと国債が暴落しかねないと指摘されても、政治は負担増を嫌う国民を説得できていない。混迷を深める市場と、民意に翻弄される政治が、相互に危機を増幅している。
 危機の根源にある欧州債務問題を鎮めることが、喫緊の課題だ。欧州は、財政赤字を削減し、国債の下落を抑えるよう、万策を講じなければならない。
 経済活性化は復興から
 日本は、東日本大震災から初めての正月を迎えた。
 未曽有の震災は人々の心と社会に深い傷痕を残している。がれきの処理が進まず、新しいまちづくりはこれからだ。東京電力福島第一原子力発電所は、いまだに事故を完全に収束できず、全国各地での避難生活も続いている。
 日本経済は、欧米の混乱に伴う超円高と株安に苦しみ、企業の生産拠点の海外移転による産業空洞化も加速している。復興を進めて経済を成長軌道に乗せたい。
 それには、政治が機能不全から脱却する必要がある。民主党政権の統治能力も問われている。
 野田首相は、社会保障の財源としての消費税率引き上げに道筋をつけ、成長のカギを握る自由貿易を推進し、現実的なエネルギー政策を確立しなければならない。
 衆参ねじれ国会では、民主、自民、公明3党の合意があって、初めて政治が前に進む。政権を円滑に運営するには、政党間協議で合意を積み重ねる必要がある。
 財政破綻もあり得る
 政治を動かす「魔法の(つえ)」はない。次期衆院選が年内にも予想されるが、民自公3党は、党利党略を超え、合意を目指すべきだ。
 今の政治に必要なのは、リーダーの不退転の覚悟と合意形成に向けた努力、国民に痛みを受容してもらう説得力である。
 ギリシャの財政危機に端を発した欧州危機は、日本にとって「対岸の火事」ではない。
 日本は、先進国の中で最も厳しい財政事情にある。国と地方を合わせた公的債務は900兆円弱に膨らみ、国内総生産(GDP)のほぼ2倍にも上っている。
 これまで、日本には1500兆円近くの個人金融資産があり、日本の国債は9割以上が国内の機関投資家や個人投資家に保有されているため、国債の消化を海外に頼る欧米諸国と比べて危険度が比較的小さい、とされてきた。
 しかし、個人金融資産は、住宅ローンなどの債務を差し引いた実体では1100兆円になる。公的債務との差は200兆円程度だ。今後、国債発行がこ れまでのペースで増える一方、高齢化による貯蓄の取り崩しによって金融資産が目減りすれば、国民の資産だけでは国債を吸収できなくなる。
 財政状況が深刻化し、大震災に見舞われながらも、円に対する国際的信認はなお厚い。日本には欧州並みに消費税率を15~25%に引き上げる「余地」があると思われているからだろう。
 しかし、日本の国債がいったん売られると、金利が上昇して利払い費が膨らみ、債務が拡大する。消費が冷え込み、設備投資の減少など景気低迷と税収減の悪循環に陥れば、財政破綻という悪夢のシナリオが現実になりかねない。
 消費税率引き上げによる財政再建を急ぐ理由は、ここにある。
 野田首相は、消費税率について「2014年4月に8%、15年10月に10%へ引き上げる」と言明している。3月末に、税制関連法案を国会に提出する方針だ。
 首相は、年金や医療、介護などの社会保障制度を持続可能にするには、消費税率引き上げによるしかないことを、国民に丁寧に説明し、理解を求めてもらいたい。
 社会保障と税の一体改革は、どの政党が政権を取っても、与野党で協力して実施に移さなければならないテーマだ。自民、公明両党も政権復帰の可能性を見据え、法案成立に協力すべきだろう。
 負担減と給付増を求めるような大衆に迎合する政治(ポピュリズム)と決別することが、危機を克服する道である。
 中国にどう向き合う
 アジア太平洋地域で、荒波がその高さを増している。
 軍事的膨張を続ける中国は、日本や他国を射程に収めた弾道ミサイルを配備し、次世代戦闘機の開発を急いでいる。南シナ海や東シナ海では、日米両国、東南アジア諸国連合(ASEAN)との軋轢(あつれき)を繰り返している。
 北朝鮮は、権力継承の過程で政情が不穏になる可能性がある。
 日本の取るべき道は、アジア重視の姿勢に転じた米国との同盟を一層深化させ、南西方面の防衛力を向上させることである。
 そのためには、沖縄問題の解決が避けて通れない。
 米軍普天間飛行場を名護市辺野古に移設するという日米合意を実現するには、沖縄振興策、騒音など基地負担の軽減を通じた、沖縄県との信頼回復が不可欠だ。
 担当閣僚はもちろん、野田首相も沖縄に出向き、仲井真弘多(ひろかず)知事らを本気で説得すべきである。
 農業再生へのチャンス
 日米同盟の強化には、経済連携を進めることも寄与する。
 野田首相は、米国主導の環太平洋経済連携協定(TPP)交渉への参加に向け、関係国との協議に入るとの意向を示している。
 アジアの活力を取り込む枠組みは日本の成長戦略に不可欠だ。
 事前交渉などを経て、TPPへの参加が認められれば、新たな通商ルールづくりに関与できる。日本の国益増進に資するよう、戦略的に交渉しなくてはならない。
 交渉参加には、農業関係者らが反発している。原則が「例外なき関税撤廃」では、日本の農業を守れない、という理由からだ。
 だが、農業はこのままでは衰退必至だ。TPPへの参加こそ農地の大規模化、就農支援など農業改革に取り組む契機になる。国際競争力が増せば、コメに限らず、高品質の農産物の輸出も拡大しよう。
 TPPはピンチではなく、再生へのチャンスと捉えたい。
 安全な原発に更新せよ
 日本の復興、経済成長で中心的役割を果たすのが電力などのエネルギー政策である。
 福島原発の事故の影響で、各地の原発が定期検査を終えた後も再稼働できず、電力不足が深刻化している。5月までには全原発54基が停止する恐れがある。
 総発電量の3割が失われる事態を回避しなければならない。
 電力会社は火力発電で急場をしのいでいるが、燃料の天然ガスなどが高騰し、発電コストが上昇している。太陽光や風力の再生可能エネルギーによる発電は、総発電量の1%しかない。原発に代わる事業に育つには長年を要する。
 安全が十分に確認できた原発から再稼働していくことが必要だ。政府は地元自治体の理解を得るよう尽力しなければならない。
 再稼働が進まないと、停電や電力不足のリスクを避けるために、企業が海外移転を図り、産業空洞化に拍車を掛けることになる。
 菅前首相の無責任な「脱原発」路線と一線を画し、野田首相が原発輸出を推進するなど、現実を踏まえたエネルギー政策に乗り出したのは、当然である。
 中国など新興国では、原発新設の計画が維持されている。より安全な新型原発を開発し、技術提供や専門家育成のノウハウと合わせて輸出することは、事故を起こした日本の信頼回復に役立つ。
 「原発ゼロ」を標榜(ひょうぼう)すれば、原発輸出力は低下し、技術者の海外流出にもつながりかねない。
 福島原発では、事故収束から廃炉まで30~40年を要する。並行して、原発技術を継承する人材を確保、育成しなければならない。
 太陽光や風力などの電源に占める比率を高めていくにしても、国内で古くなった原発を高性能で安全な原発に更新する、という選択肢を排除すべきではない。
 電力の安定供給、コスト、環境への影響などを総合的に判断し、電源の最適な組み合わせを見いだすべきだ。それが今後の電力危機を回避することに結びつこう。
 消費税、沖縄、TPP、原発の各課題は、いずれも先送りできない。日本が「3・11」を克服し、平和と繁栄の方向に歩を進められるか。世界が注目している

(2012年1月1日00時56分  読売新聞)
 http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/editorial/news/20111231-OYT1T00488.htm

Không có nhận xét nào:

Đăng nhận xét