雇用不安 新成長戦略で働く場確保を

2009-11-30 10:43:12 | 英字新聞

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The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 30, 2009)
New growth strategy needed to protect jobs
雇用不安 新成長戦略で働く場確保を(11月30日付・読売社説)

At the end of last year, a large number of manufacturers across the nation fired temporary workers even before their work contracts expired. To help those who lost jobs, a civic group set up a tent camp, called Toshikoshi Hakenmura (village for temporary workers to see out the old year), in Tokyo's Hibiya Park. A year later, the country's employment situation has grown even more serious.

How effective will the government's emergency employment measures be? The government must do all it can to alleviate the severe employment situation as the year-end approaches.


Situation in rural areas bleak

Kitakami, a city located in the southwest of Iwate Prefecture, has some of the leading industrial parks in the country. Blessed with vast plains and abundant water, the city capitalizes on its good location connected to an expressway.

With a large number of leading companies having set up plants there, the city until recently enjoyed a reputation as having successful industrial parks where a variety of industries are concentrated. Yet the tide of recession is sweeping toward the city.

At Iwate Toshiba Electronics Co., a Toshiba Corp. subsidiary located in an industrial park in the northern part of the city, a vast plot of land lies vacant next to the firm's semiconductor plant.

Toshiba announced in 2008 it would build a new plant in Kitakami to produce cutting-edge NAND flash memory products. But the firm decided early this year to postpone construction of the plant due to flagging sales of semiconductors and a serious downturn in business. The site for the planned flash memory plant will soon see its second winter.

Under the initial plan, the plant was scheduled to start operation in spring 2010 and employ about 1,000 new workers.

About three years ago, the ratio of job offers to job seekers in the city rose to about 1.9 thanks to companies that flooded to the city to open new plants. As a result, the city ran short of workers. But now, the job-offers-to-job-seekers ratio has nosedived to about 0.3. Kitakami Mayor Akira Ito awaits the day when Toshiba decides to start the construction.

The mayor has been visiting companies with branches in the city, asking them to hire even one more employee, in what he calls his "plus one" campaign.

This situation is not confined in Kitakami, but can be seen across the country. NEC Corp. has closed its liquid crystal panel plant in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, while Honda Motor Co. postponed operation of its new plant in Yoriimachi, Saitama Prefecture.

Listed companies' midterm earnings reports for the period ending in September showed that their business performance is improving. But they are still cautious about making capital investments as they strive to cut costs to be globally competitive.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry announced Friday that the number of jobless people was 3.44 million in October, while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.1 percent. The nation's job-offers-to-job-seekers ratio remains at a low level, at a seasonally adjusted 0.44.

Under its slogan of "From concrete to people," the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatomaya touts a policy shift that allocates taxpayers' money to programs related to people's lives, rather than to public works programs, as was seen in the past. This policy shift has slashed the number of public works projects, which local economies rely heavily on, dealing a heavy blow to the economies, which were already suffering from the ongoing wave of corporate restructuring.

The government, which compiled emergency employment measures in October, has begun studying additional employment measures for inclusion in the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2009.


Bolder steps needed

With the number of jobless rising, there are fears of downside risks for the economy, making it vitally important for the government to come up with new bold measures.

The pillar of the emergency employment measures is the provision of assistance to those who have lost their jobs and are in poverty and distress, and to new graduates, as well as the creation of jobs, mainly in such areas as nursing care, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, for about 100,000 people by the end of this fiscal year.

With the measures, the government aims to make the Hello Work job placement offices one-stop centers that, as well as helping unemployed people find jobs, can also help those who have become homeless as a result of losing their jobs find accommodation. But these measures are nothing new.

Meanwhile, to encourage firms to temporarily lay off rather than fire employees, the government will ease requirements for receiving a governmental subsidy to defray costs relating to layoffs.

Steps such as these would go some way to protecting jobs. But subsidies like the one for firms furloughing workers should be expanded, while the government should carefully design job-training programs.

The ratio of college students graduating next spring who have received unofficial job offers hovered at around just 60 percent as of October, leaving the job situation for job-hunting college students extremely tight. To avoid creating a generation of unemployed people, it is an urgent task to boost such assistance.

What is probably important in the mid- and long term is to expand job opportunities.

Although the government has set a target of creating 100,000 jobs, that figure is dwarfed by the number of jobless, which has ballooned to 3.44 million.

Expanding cooperation among the sectors of agriculture, commerce and industry will reinvigorate these primary industries and boost tourism, the government should mobilize all workable policy steps so as to create more jobs in rural areas.


Domestic industries at risk

Job-creation measures will also directly lead to measures to prevent the hollowing out of domestic industries.

Driven by fierce price-cutting competition for their products at home, more and more companies are shifting their production bases out of the country, further reducing the number of job opportunities. As a result, the Japanese economy is in danger of falling into a vicious cycle in which it becomes increasingly anemic.

For such reasons, the government needs to hammer out a new growth strategy that will revitalize domestic industries and regional economies.

The promotion of new industries that can capitalize on Japan's strong points, such as those in the area of environmental protection, will generate economic vitality and create jobs. The government needs to present a clear-cut vision to give domestic industries and regional economies hope for the future.

In this respect, the key will be to generate demand in other Asian countries for Japanese goods by reinforcing product-development and export strategies targeted at consumer markets in Asia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 30, 2009)
(2009年11月30日01時11分  読売新聞)


CO2削減 米中の目標公表で弾みつくか

2009-11-29 11:58:15 | 英字新聞

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The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 29, 2009)
U.S., China could lead way to post-Kyoto deal
CO2削減 米中の目標公表で弾みつくか(11月29日付・読売社説)

The United States and China, the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gas, have recently announced their medium-term targets for CO2 emission reductions. We hope their commitments will add momentum to the drafting of a fair framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

The United States has set itself a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. The U.S. targets also include a 30 percent reduction by 2025, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.

However, a 17 percent cut from 2005 levels actually represents a reduction of just a few percent from 1990 levels. This contrasts sharply with the target set by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, which aims to curb this nation's emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels.

The U.S. targets are very realistic, as restoring the economy is currently Washington's top priority.


China emissions could grow

Meanwhile, China, which has recently surpassed the United States to become the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, has announced it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 percent to 45 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2020.

The Chinese target of cutting emissions per unit of GDP is different from those adopted by Japan and the United States, which aim for reductions in total emissions volume. Under this approach, China would be allowed to emit more CO2 if its GDP grows.

China is apparently trying to trumpet to the world its contribution to tackling greenhouse gas reduction without damaging its economic growth. It also has stressed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a "voluntary action based on our own national situation."

This indicates that Beijing is wary of entering into internationally binding deals on emissions reductions.


COP15 nations divided

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Climate Change Convention (COP15) will start in Copenhagen on Dec. 7. The U.S. and Chinese announcements of midterm targets is undoubtedly one step forward in the lead-up to COP15 discussions that will focus on a post-Kyoto Protocol international framework to be followed from 2013.

In reality, however, there is still a gulf of opinion between major industrialized countries and developing countries on how to tackle climate change. It already appears almost impossible for a post-Kyoto Protocol framework to be adopted in the Danish capital in December. The focus of attention has already shifted to whether the COP15 nations can reach a major political agreement that could lead to the adoption of a new protocol next year.

Moves by the United States and China hold the key to the success of the talks.

There is concern that some developing countries are leaning toward a possible extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. The Kyoto Protocol lacks teeth as the United States has withdrawn from it and China, as a developing country, is not obliged to cut its emissions under the pact.

Hatoyama has made an international pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent without seeking the backing of the Japanese public. As a precondition for committing the nation to this target, however, he has stated that all major nations must sign on to a post-Kyoto Protocol framework.

Japan must steadfastly maintain this condition at the upcoming COP15 talks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 29, 2009)
(2009年11月29日01時13分 読売新聞)

事業仕分け 政治家が責任持って決定を

2009-11-28 05:26:16 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 28, 2009)
Budget decisions rest with lawmakers
事業仕分け 政治家が責任持って決定を(11月28日付・読売社説)

The Government Revitalization Unit on Friday ended its nine-day budget screening session to identify wasteful spending in fiscal 2010 budget requests for government-led projects.

The unit judged that many of the 449 projects it examined should be abolished or downsized. The task force also demanded that some funds already distributed to independent administrative organizations and public-interest corporations be returned to the national coffers.

The money to be returned and savings raked in from the abolished projects outlined in the initial budget requests will top 1.6 trillion yen.

Although this is still short of the government's target of 3 trillion yen, the savings could be used as a precious financial resource for next fiscal year's budget.

However, the first attempt to broadcast part of the government's budget drafting process live on the Internet created many problems.

Some members of the unit's screening teams, comprised of lawmakers and experts from the private sector, basked in the public exposure and often played to the gallery, snapping at officials from the government organizations to give them explanations on the projects. It was appalling behavior.

The criteria by which budget examiners were chosen from the private sector also remain unclear.


Changes needed

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said he plans to continue the budget screening in and after fiscal 2010. If so, we think it is necessary to revise the rules for running the session--such as by giving sufficient opportunities for budget briefers to answer questions and clarifying the standards by which budget examiners from the private sector are selected.

Many questions also have been raised about why some government projects were subject to the screening when it was obvious they could not be discussed properly in just one hour.

Projects that fell under this category included allocations for the so-called sympathy budget for U.S. military forces in Japan, the Foreign Ministry's support of international institutions and funding to promote science and technology.

These matters are all closely related to what the nation should be and its future. They cannot be solved so easily.


Science gets cold shoulder

Perhaps the biggest controversy during the screening was the panel's decision to effectively freeze the budget for a next-generation supercomputer project.

Nobel laureates and business leaders have poured scorn on this decision, saying that short-term cost-effectiveness was not the proper standard for evaluating science and technology projects. They also warned that Japan could eventually lose the global race to develop advanced technology.

We wholeheartedly agree with them. The unit might have lacked the strategic thinking needed to deduce what fields should be given priority in budget allocations from long-term and international points of view.

It was also regrettable that the unit decided to abolish a project to encourage children to read books.

Ill-advised judgments made by the panel this time around must be corrected in the future.

The decisions made during the budget screening session are not final. The government could treat them as a set of criteria for making decisions on the budget, but it should not be bound by them.

The responsibility for deciding how to treat the unit's judgments in the budget drafting process now rests in the hands of this nation's lawmakers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 28, 2009)
(2009年11月28日01時49分 読売新聞)

円急騰 ドル離れ進む世界の投資資金

2009-11-27 09:39:45 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 27, 2009)
Yen's surge doesn't deserve appreciation
円急騰 ドル離れ進む世界の投資資金(11月27日付・読売社説)

The yen's value has surged as selling pressure on the U.S. dollar has accelerated on foreign exchange markets. This situation could deal a devastating blow to the tottering Japanese economy.

The yen jumped to a 14-year high in the 86 yen level against the dollar Thursday in Tokyo. The dollar seems to be declining across the board against the euro and currencies of newly emerging economies.

Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii indicated the government would intervene in the currency market if exchange rates "move abnormally." U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned against sharp falls of the dollar when he stated recently that the Fed would monitor changes in the value of the greenback.

As dollar-selling pressure appears unlikely to ease anytime soon, the appreciation of the yen and depreciation of the dollar likely will continue for some time. Monetary authorities in Japan and the United States, and other countries for that matter, must work together to moderate excessive fluctuations in currency markets by exploring the possibility of market interventions.


U.S. economic woes

The biggest cause of the falling dollar is the expectation that the United States' ultralow interest rate policy will remain in place as the U.S. economy continues to sputter.

The U.S. unemployment rate has risen to 10 percent. Nascent indications are that this could be a jobless recovery. Some observers have even suggested that U.S. authorities are tacitly tolerating moderate falls in the dollar to stimulate the economy through growth in exports.

A more worrying problem is that the so-called dollar carry trade--investors selling dollars with relatively low interest rates and instead investing in higher-yielding currencies--has kicked into gear.

The yen carry trade was commonplace from about 2004 through 2007. This time around, the dollar is shaking up money markets around the world.

The price of gold has surged to a record high near 1,200 dollars an ounce in New York. This also is a sign that investors are discarding the greenback because gold is purchased as an alternative currency to the dollar. Crude oil and grain prices also have been creeping up as investment funds are diverted into these markets.


Exporters in peril

A sharp rise in the value of the yen and a plunge in the value of the dollar could spell disaster for the Japanese economy, which remains mired in deflation and has yet to get on the path to a full recovery.

Many exporting companies had assumed the yen would average about 90 yen per dollar throughout the second half of this fiscal year. If the yen continues to appreciate sharply against the dollar, these companies would take a battering. These exporters are a driving force of the nation's economy; any faltering by them could throttle the economy again.

Furthermore, the euro's surge could stall a full recovery of the European economy. Concern about economic bubbles is rising in newly emerging nations such as Brazil, which have been magnets for investment funds.

A fall in the dollar would throw the world economy into confusion. To ensure this does not come about, it is essential that the United States emerge from a jobless recovery and regain confidence in its currency. To this end, we consider it imperative that the United States implement effective measures to boost employment.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2009)
(2009年11月27日01時33分 読売新聞)

日米密約調査 核抑止力の低下は避けよ

2009-11-26 09:47:32 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 26, 2009)
Pact probe must not dilute U.S. N-deterrence

A full investigation into alleged secret pacts involving the entry into Japan of U.S. nuclear weapons--among other issues said to have been agreed between Tokyo and Washington--is essential to recover public trust in this nation's diplomacy.

However, the probe must not be allowed to weaken the effect of the U.S. forces' nuclear deterrence.

A panel of experts set up by the Foreign Ministry to investigate the alleged pacts will hold its first meeting Friday.

Based on the results of an in-house Foreign Ministry investigation, the panel members will interview retired ministry officials before submitting a report to Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in January.

The panel will examine four alleged secret pacts, including one said to have been inked in 1960 when the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was revised. This agreement reportedly effectively allowed U.S. military ships and airplanes carrying nuclear arms to visit or pass through Japan without prior consultation between the two governments.

Disclosed U.S. diplomatic documents and the testimony of a former administrative vice-minister for foreign affairs have already undermined the credibility of the former government's official denial of the existence of the pacts. Furthermore, the ministry's latest probe unearthed a document supporting the pacts' existence.


Extenuating circumstances?

It is highly significant that Okada is launching his own inquiry after the Democratic Party of Japan wrested power from the Liberal Democratic Party and he was made foreign minister.

If the DPJ-led government was to officially admit the existence of the secret pacts based on the results of the inquiry, it would be the first step to dispelling the sense of mistrust felt by the public.

However, we can understand the circumstances under which the government at that time deemed it necessary to draw up a secret deal with the United States to secure the effectiveness of the U.S. "nuclear umbrella," while consideration likely was paid to the antipathy of Japanese people toward nuclear arms during the Cold War period.

We expect the panel members to take into account the historical background of the period and try to discern how such pacts might have been thrashed out.

Secrets are an inherent part of diplomatic negotiations. During such bargaining, there is much information that cannot immediately be disclosed in terms of maintaining relations of trust with a partner country and preventing harm to the people concerned. However, it is important to deepen discussions on the kind of circumstances in which it is appropriate to disclose such information after a certain period of time.

Hereafter, discussions must be held to review the three nonnuclear principles of not producing, not possessing and not allowing the entry of nuclear arms into this country.


Looking ahead

Japan's present security situation is becoming increasingly unstable in light of North Korea's declared possession of nuclear weapons, for example. This makes it necessary to maintain and even improve the U.S. forces' nuclear deterrence.

In 1991, the United States removed tactical nuclear weapons from its military ships and nuclear submarines. This made the entry of nuclear weapons into Japan unlikely, at least for a while. But in the medium-to-long term, there is no guarantee that a neighboring country will not threaten the security of this nation with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

A founding principle of national security is that a country must remain militarily flexible to deal with changing situations.

We believe it may be time for the government to seriously consider introducing "2-1/2 nonnuclear principles," which would still prohibit the deployment of nuclear arms on the ground but would allow ships and airplanes carrying nuclear weapons to visit Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2009)
(2009年11月26日01時06分 読売新聞)