新成長戦略 目標実現の具体策が見えない

2009-12-31 09:41:05 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 31, 2009)
Govt's new growth strategy short on details
新成長戦略 目標実現の具体策が見えない(12月31日付・読売社説)

Having an ambitious goal alone is not enough to ensure a bright future. The government's newly unveiled growth strategy for a "shining Japan" lacks vital substance in that it fails to illuminate how to achieve these goals in detail.
The strategy, the basic policy of which was approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, sets a target of achieving a more than 2 percent annual growth in the gross domestic product in real terms through fiscal 2020. In nominal terms, the growth target is aimed at staying above 3 percent.

This means that in 10 years, the nominal GDP is expected to grow from the 470 trillion yen of this fiscal year to 650 trillion yen. But the fact is that the nominal GDP has been in negative territory for the past six straight quarters, pushing GDP down by 50 trillion yen. As the economy has entered a deflationary phase, which also shrinks the GDP, obstacles to reaching the target are extremely high.


Solid ends, vague means

In its growth strategy, the government declared it would pursue a "third way" of seeking the creation of new demand, instead of relying on public works projects or following the principle of market fundamentalism as seen under the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The new stance touted by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appears to be in line with a policy pledge to "shift from concrete to human beings," meaning a departure from an industrial structure heavily dependent on public works projects.

The strategy listed two areas--the environment and energy, and medical and nursing care services--that the government intends to focus on and shore up. In these areas, which Japan can boast of having strengths in, there will be a goal of creating new demand worth 100 trillion yen and 4.2 new million jobs.

The government also intends to stimulate trade with other Asian nations--whose economies are continuing to grow fast--support scientific and technological development and strengthen measures to sustain employment.

There is nothing wrong with the direction of these policy courses. But, in terms of details in the measures, we find little difference with those included in about a dozen growth strategies hammered out by the governments of the past decade.

This is likely because the strategy was compiled from worn-out proposals submitted by ministries and agencies concerned. As it took only half a month to devise the strategy, it gives an impression that the government threw it together in order to thwart criticism that the current administration has no growth strategy.


Get private sector input

The government intends, by June, to complete the growth strategy by putting flesh on these basic policy bones and provide a road map for achieving these goals.

But it would be better to drastically review the strategy by, for example, inviting ideas widely from the private sector and narrowing down the list of measures to those that appear to have the greatest potential effect and feasibility. There also should be mention of how necessary funds for nurturing new industries and supporting technological development should be allocated.

If the Hatoyama administration sticks to its policy pledge not to raise the consumption tax rate for four years, it is unlikely that it will be able to secure a stable revenue source to implement policy measures. It must not have faith in a "rising tide" theory of economic growth being able to increase tax revenues.

It also is necessary to show the path to fiscal reconstruction for the mid- to long-run in order to ease people's anxiety about the future of social security and other matters.

Unless measures are taken to prevent a further economic decline and solve the deflation problem, any great growth strategy will merely end up being pie in the sky.

The government has cut spending for public works projects by nearly 20 percent in the fiscal 2010 budget, compared with the current fiscal year. Spending for urgently needed projects such as construction work to improve the earthquake resistance of primary and middle school buildings also has been reduced. These projects should be revived and used to help economic recovery.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 31, 2009)
(2009年12月31日01時16分 読売新聞)

09回顧・国際 オバマ政権登場で動いた世界

2009-12-30 08:25:25 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 30, 2009)
2009 provided plenty of grist for media mill
09回顧・国際 オバマ政権登場で動いた世界(12月30日付・読売社説)

It has been a busy year. From a pandemic of a new type of influenza that hit the world this year to the struggles of the global economy to get out of recession to the prevention of nuclear proliferation and global environmental problems--the international community had to tackle a wide variety of issues.

On the list of the top 10 international news stories chosen by readers of The Yomiuri Shimbun, Barack Obama's inauguration as U.S. president and his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize ranked second and fifth respectively. This shows how popular Obama is, even in Japan.

In April, Obama announced his target of a nuclear free world during a speech in Prague--a story that ranked 13th on the list. Although he said it would be difficult to realize that goal during his lifetime, Obama chaired a summit-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council in September and led the council to approve a historic resolution aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons--a story that ranked 15th on the list.

However, Obama said during a speech at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in December; "The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace," positioning the U.S. war in Afghanistan and other conflicts as "just wars."
He made the remark as the leader of the world's preeminent superpower, based on the cold, hard realities of the world.


N. Korea still source of concern

In April, North Korea test-fired a long-range ballistic missile--the news story raking sixth on the list. The U.N. Security Council immediately adopted a presidential statement condemning the launch, but Pyongyang held an underground nuclear test in May (story No. 14 on the list).

As it was the second nuclear test North Korea has conducted since 2006, it was reasonable that the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution widening sanctions against the reclusive state.

Though the United States and China are continuing negotiations with North Korea, the six-way talks aimed at stopping Pyongyang's nuclear development program have remained suspended and will see the old year out without any likelihood of resumption.

The news story ranked eighth was the riots by Muslim Uygurs that erupted in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xingjian Uygur Autonomous Region, in which 197 people died. The incident highlighted the antagonism between China's majority Han people and Uygurs, showing that ethnic minority issues could prove to be the Achilles' heel of China, whose economy continues to grow rapidly.

In October, China celebrated the 60th anniversary of People's Republic of China, staging the military parade for the first time in 10 years, a story readers ranked 18th. It symbolized the efforts by the Chinese Communist Party and the government to boost national prestige. However, the administration of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who has just three more years or so in office, is facing a mountain of problems such as the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and spreading corruption.


Deadly blaze

The news story ranked seventh on the list is the shooting range fire in Busan, South Korea, in November that killed 15, including 10 Japanese tourists.

Also in South Korea, former President Roh Moo-hyun killed himself in May and Kim Dae Jung, former president and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, passed away in August, both of which were sad news for South Koreans.

From the first outbreak in Mexico in April, a new type of flu spread around the world this year. According to the World Health Organization, the global death toll from the disease, including deaths in Japan, topped 10,000. This was the No. 1 story on the The Yomiuri Shimbun's list of the top 10 international news stories.

The new flu pandemic highlighted various concerns about the way governments around the world cooperate to fight the global spread of infectious diseases. Developing countries suffered shortages of vaccines against the type A H1N1 flu virus.

The financial crisis entered its second year in the wake of momentous events in the first half of the year including the bankruptcies of major U.S. auto manufacturers General Motors and Chrysler--the story ranked fourth on the list of international news stories.


Economy bottoms out

Financial summit meetings of the Group of 20, at which leaders of the 19 nations and the European Union discussed what measures they should take to combat the economic crisis and fix the global economy, were held in London in April and Pittsburgh in September. With the nations cooperatively carrying out fiscal measures and monetary easing policies, it is believed that the worst of the global economic crisis is over.

The G-20 released a leaders' statement in which they proclaimed the G-20 to be the premier forum for international economic cooperation, a development that appears to weaken the influence of the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations.

Concerning international cooperation to combat global warming, the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP15) failed to set concrete reduction goals for greenhouse gasses. The participating nations were able to avert a complete breakdown in negotiations and somehow maintained a positive attitude toward resolving the issue. However, various problems remain unsolved.

In September, a magnitude-8 earthquake hit the island nation of Samoa in the South Pacific, followed by a magnitude 7.6 quake that struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. In all, more than 1,000 people were killed or went missing, a story that was ranked ninth by Yomiuri Shimbun readers.


Lightning fast

The 10th ranked story was considerably more cheerful--Usain Bolt of Jamaica won three world athletic titles at the World Championships in Athletics in August, breaking world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints and winning a third gold in the 400-meter relay.

In less happy news, golf superstar Tiger Woods, 33, stunned the world with his involvement in extramarital affairs with several women. The scandal led him to announce in December that he would take an indefinite break from professional golf.

The sudden death in June of singer Michael Jackson startled his fans around the globe--a story ranked third on the list by readers. Jackson was only 50 years old. Police continue to investigate accusations of criminal wrongdoing against the celebrity's personal physician.

Bombing attacks by terrorists are an almost daily event in Iraq and Afghanistan. In December, Obama announced that the United States would dispatch an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first half of next year and that it would start withdrawing troops from the country beginning July 2011. The war against terrorism will continue into next year and beyond.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2009)
(2009年12月30日01時17分 読売新聞)

首相インド訪問 新たな大国との関係強化を

2009-12-29 07:33:19 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 29, 2009)
Japan should cement ties with new big power India
首相インド訪問 新たな大国との関係強化を(12月29日付・読売社説)

Despite the hectic political calendar at year-end, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama chose to schedule a trip abroad, to South Asian major power India.

India, which has been displaying remarkable economic growth, emulating that of China, is located in an important position connecting the Middle East and East Asia. Japan should promote an economic alliance and security cooperation with India and strengthen the bilateral relationship from a strategic perspective.

India has been maintaining an annualized economic growth rate of 8 percent and has the second-largest population in the world. The country is an attractive economic market for advanced nations. The number of Japanese companies that have advanced into India has tripled in the past three years.

But Japan's total trade volume with India has remained at a low level, and amounts to about one-twentieth of the value of the trade this country does with China.

Signaling his desire to boost the Japan-India bilateral economic relationship, Hatoyama held talks with business leaders in the commercial city of Mumbai before traveling to New Delhi for talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Intensify EPA talks

Experts point out that India's social infrastructure is still insufficient, hindering the expansion of investment from abroad. It is important for Japan to steadily implement its economic assistance for large-scale projects in India, including the construction of a railway for freight transportation linking New Delhi and Mumbai.

Japan also needs to accelerate its negotiations for an economic partnership agreement with India.

In the negotiations, India has asked Japan to streamline its procedures for approving generic drugs and increase the number of tariff-free items. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry are reluctant to accept such demands, but we hope that concerned ministers will discuss policies for the negotiations, working out which items Japan should compromise on and which ones it should not, without relying too much on bureaucrats.

This summer, South Korea signed an economic partnership agreement with India. Japan should be aware this means South Korean companies will be able to get a head start in India on a more advantageous footing than Japanese firms.


Antipiracy steps needed

In Tuesday's summit meeting, Hatoyama and Singh are expected to establish a regular bilateral security consultation forum involving the foreign and defense vice ministers of the two countries. The countries are considering upgrading the security talks to a ministerial-level meeting in the future.

Ensuring the security of sea-lanes connecting the Middle East and East Asia is desperately important for Japan, which relies heavily on foreign countries for energy resources and food. We hope the Japanese and Indian leaders will discuss concrete steps toward that goal, such as sharing of information on pirates and mounting joint antipiracy patrols.

India is an important partner for Japan in the regional cooperative framework centered around the East Asia Summit.

On the other hand, concerning the new round of multilateral trade talks under the World Trade Organization and the climate change problem, India, along with China, continues to take the side of developing countries, and its words and deeds have caused friction with advanced nations, including Japan.

Japan should patiently call on India to play constructive roles that fit its new status as a major power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2009)
(2009年12月29日01時16分 読売新聞)

指導要領解説書 「竹島」に触れないのは問題だ

2009-12-28 11:01:00 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 28, 2009)
Teaching manual mustn't avoid Takeshima dispute
指導要領解説書 「竹島」に触れないのは問題だ(12月28日付・読売社説)

The generations who will forge this nation's future must be accurately taught about its territories and history.

However, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has made no reference to the Takeshima islets--which South Korea claims as its sovereign territory, an assertion Japan disputes--in an instruction manual containing its new high school curriculum guidelines on geography A and geography B set to come into effect in the 2013 academic year. This omission is extremely questionable.

Japan established sovereignty over the Takeshima islets no later than the mid-17th century--in the early Edo period (1603-1867).
In 1905, the islets were placed under the jurisdiction of Shimane Prefecture following approval by the cabinet.

However, South Korea has been occupying the islets unlawfully since 1952, when Seoul unilaterally drew the Syngman Rhee Line--a boundary laid down by then South Korean President Syngman Rhee in the Sea of Japan claiming fishing rights in the area--a move made in defiance of international law.

This country's official stance on the islets is that Takeshima has always been an integral part of the nation's territory, a view backed historically and by international law.

In current high school textbooks, six authorized textbooks for geography A and five books for geography B state there is a sovereignty dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima islets, and that they are an integral part of Japan.


1 step backward

In July last year, the education ministry added for the first time the teaching of Japan's stance on the Takeshima islets to a teaching manual for middle school curriculum guidelines for social studies, which will take effect in the 2012 academic year.

But the teaching manual in question does not clarify that the territorial dispute involves the Takeshima islets. It simply says, "Following up on what is taught in middle school, we should handle this issue accurately, based upon our country's rightful assertions, and help students deepen their understanding."

The education ministry says the government's stance--that the Takeshima islets are an integral part of the nation--remains unchanged. If so, the ministry should state this clearly. It makes no sense that what is taught about the Takeshima dispute at high school level is a step backward from what is taught at middle school level, despite high school being a place to develop what has been studied at middle school.


Consideration for S. Korea

Unlike the curriculum guidelines, the teaching manual comes with no legal obligation to be implemented. However, it will be a lodestar both for textbook publishers and teachers preparing for classes. The manual in question has the potential to generate misunderstanding among textbook publishers and teachers and cause them to disregard the Takeshima dispute.

Sources said Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made the final decision that the new manual should not mention the Takeshima issue.

When he was in the opposition camp, Hatoyama said, "It's natural to clearly state [the Takeshima issue]" when the issue was included in a teaching manual for middle school curriculum guidelines for social studies, which drew a series of harsh protests from South Korea. It is doubtful his latest decision could be squared with his previous remark.

Observers said the absence of any mention of the Takeshima issue resulted from the government's consideration for South Korean ties, as next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of Korea.

Territorial issues and how to teach them at schools form an important theme that touches on the fundamentals of nationhood. South Korea is a valuable neighbor, but fundamental truths must not be distorted due to diplomatic considerations.

It will not be easy to resolve the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets. For this reason, an unstinting effort must be made to educate people who will in the future help the public fully understand the issue as well as convey Japan's stance to the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2009)
(2009年12月28日01時22分 読売新聞)

09回顧・日本 越年となる政権迷走と不況

2009-12-27 06:32:46 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 27, 2009)
New govt, economy top stories of 2009
09回顧・日本 越年となる政権迷走と不況(12月27日付・読売社説)

In our annual ranking of the 10 domestic news stories of the year, the change of government tops the list. The administration led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was launched after the Democratic Party of Japan's overwhelming victory in the August House of Representatives election, in which it claimed 308 seats.

Day after day the new administration offered up eye-catching proposals. However, three months since the administration was launched under a banner of change, the high expectations initially held by the public have waned, with a sense of uncertainty and concern about the coalition government creeping in.

Much public attention had been paid to the fate of the DPJ's manifesto pledges, such as the child-rearing allowance program, the abolition of provisionally higher tax rates for gasoline and other auto-related taxes, and government subsidies for high school tuition.

Toward the end of the year, however, there was an unexpected development regarding these issues, with DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa seeking a drastic government review of the pledges. It was as if we were watching a drama unfold on TV.

The Government Revitalization Unit's review of budgetary requests for fiscal 2010, conducted to weed out wasteful spending, was an attention-getter, but it failed to find and cut as much wasteful spending as it hoped.

On the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Hatoyama decided to put off a decision on the issue that had emerged as a hot topic until next year, leaving the Japan-U.S. relationship severely strained.

Prosecutors have indicted two former secretaries of Hatoyama without arrest over falsified fund reports that violated the Political Funds Control Law. The trial of Ozawa's former secretary over a political funds scandal has recently begun. All of which have brought problems involving politics and money back to the fore this year.


Expressway issues

Seventh on the top 10 list is the introduction of expressway tolls set at 1,000 yen or lower. Discounted tolls on weekends and holidays for standard-sized passenger vehicles started in March on all expressways except those in major metropolitan areas. This is no doubt a topic close to the hearts of drivers.

The system was introduced in spring by the then cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso. But the new administration sought to go even further, proposing that all expressways be made toll-free.

However, if expressway tolls were done away with, there is concern that free expressways could lead to people in regional areas being deprived of public transport, such as railways, if such forms of transportation were to find themselves unable to make ends meet and were forced to cease operations due to more people opting to travel by car.

The 20th year of the Emperor's ascension to the throne ranks sixth. In the past two decades, the Emperor has resolutely adhered to the philosophy of sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people, always seeking to determine what his role should be as the symbol of the state.

Also this year, the Emperor and Empress celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. A variety of events were held to celebrate the 20th year of the Emperor's enthronement and the Imperial couple's 50th wedding anniversary.

Near the end of this memorable year, controversies emerged over the audience of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping with the Emperor, after it came to light that the Hatoyama Cabinet had broken with protocol to set up the meeting.


New-flu fears

The No. 2 domestic news story is the outbreak in Japan of the new type of influenza. The disease spread from Mexico to a host of other countries in spring, and reached Japan in May. The epidemic has yet to abate, and it has become a common sight in this country to see great numbers of people wearing face masks.