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Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007
Upper House OKs DPJ-style pension bill
But measure is unlikely to clear Diet
The House of Councilors passed a bill Friday that limits the use of pension insurance premiums to just pension payments, with the support of the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties that hold a majority in the chamber.
It was the first passage of a bill submitted by the DPJ, which won a landslide victory in the July Upper House election and for the first time in half a century, prevented the ruling Liberal Democratic Party from retaining its spot as the No. 1 force in the upper chamber.
"We're really glad," said Azuma Koshiishi, chairman of the DPJ's Upper House caucus.
The approved bill was immediately sent to the House of Representatives, where the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc holds a majority. Thus it is unlikely the bill will clear the more powerful Lower House.
Under the current law, pension premiums are used not only for pension benefits but also for pension-related publicity and other administrative expenditures to manage the state-run pension program.
The opposition-approved bill stipulates that money for covering various pension management matters be provided by the state instead of using premium payments.
The DPJ had initially submitted the bill to the Lower House during the ordinary Diet session earlier this year, but it was voted down by the ruling coalition.
The bill was crafted in the wake of the failures of pension premium-funded Greenpia resort facilities.
While not directly linked to the bill, the ruling bloc has come under severe criticism after the Social Insurance Agency admitted it couldn't identify some 50 million pension premium payment records, which meant many pensioners were receiving less money than they were entitled to.
"The public skepticism (toward how the pension system is managed) is as high as ever," said Renho, an Upper House DPJ lawmaker.
"This bill won't entirely change the pension system to something that people can feel 100 percent secure about, but we have clearly said that pension premiums will exclusively be used for pensions."