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Friday, May 14, 2004

DPJ names 33 pension delinquents; LDP mum


Staff writer

The Democratic Party of Japan said Thursday that 33 of its 244 Diet lawmakers did not pay mandatory premiums for the nation's basic pension system, leaving the Liberal Democratic Party as the only major party still refusing to disclose the payment records of its members.

News photo
DPJ lawmakers (from left) Sadao Hirano, Susumu Yanase and Giichi Tsunoda submit their resignations as chairmen of House of Councilors standing committees to Upper House President Hiroyuki Kurata.

Fuel was added to the fire as seven LDP members, including two senior vice ministers of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and Ichiro Aisawa, senior vice foreign minister, said the same day they are on the ever-growing list of politicians who have missed premium payments.

Five DPJ members who chaired committees in the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors resigned those posts earlier in the day to take responsibility for missing payments, in what was seen as a political move to contain damage and exert more pressure on the LDP.

The latest developments are expected to put the LDP and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the defensive in the leadup to the Upper House election in July. Six of his ministers who have admitted not paying premiums are still in in the Cabinet.

The furor over the missed payments is also expected to have an impact on Upper House deliberations over government-sponsored pension reform bills that cleared the Lower House on Tuesday.

The two senior welfare vice ministers are Takashi Tanihata, who did not contribute to the National Pension System for five years and 11 months beginning in August 1989 for as yet unknown reasons, and Eisuke Mori, who did not pay for 13 months beginning in July 1994 while serving as parliamentary vice labor minister.

Aisawa said he didn't pay premiums between December 1992 and August 1993. Last month he said he had "appropriately dealt with the matter."

The other four LDP members who came forward Thursday are Yoshiaki Harada, senior vice education minister, Takehiko Endo of the Lower House and Upper House members Ichita Yamamoto and Yasu Kano.

"It's regrettable that such things happened in the past, but we would like the senior vice ministers to (continue to) properly perform their jobs," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said. He denied they should resign.

Koizumi, the LDP president, met with LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe around noon and agreed the party would not probe whether its members paid the premiums.

Asked by a reporter Thursday evening why the LDP would not investigate and reveal the names of those who had not paid, Koizumi said: "I don't know. I think it is all right to leave the matter to individual party members."

But Kenji Kitahashi, deputy secretary general of the DPJ, told a news conference held to disclose the party's list of nonpayers: "We believe that (disclosure) is the first step to gain the public's acceptance of pension reforms. Whatever the reasons (for nonpayment) may be, we would like to apologize for deepening public distrust in politics."

On the DPJ's list of 17 Lower House members and 16 Upper House members are Upper House member Takeo Nishioka, who failed to pay for nine years and 11 months beginning in April 1986, and Upper House member Naoki Minezaki, who missed payments for nine years and six months beginning in September 1992.

Kitahashi also said that former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, supreme adviser to the DPJ, resigned from his post because he did not pay premiums for nine years and four months beginning in April 1986.

In addition to wreaking havoc with the government's timetable for the enactment of the pension reform bills, the large number of Diet lawmakers across the political spectrum who have missed premium payments is reportedly making it even more difficult for the Social Insurance Agency to collect premiums from nonpayers among the general public.

Facing an increasing number of self-employed people who are refusing to pay premiums for the National Pension System, the agency has resumed its forcible seizure of people's assets.

Yokohama mayor, too

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada said Thursday he did not pay pension premiums for 12 years, including the nearly nine years beginning in July 1993 when he served as a member of the House of Representatives.

He apologized and said he was ashamed he did not understand the system properly.

City officials said Nakada's personal office realized he had not paid the premiums when he became mayor in April 2002 and paid some 300,000 yen -- the two years' worth that a person who has missed payments can pay regressively -- of the roughly 1.65 million yen that was not paid.

On Thursday, Nakada said he would like to find some way, such as taking a pay cut, to make up for the remainder.

Nakada also did not pay his premiums for the National Pension System while studying at Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, known as Matsushita Seikei Juku, between April 1989 and June 1992.



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