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Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

Ruling bloc, opposition resume Diet squabbling


Staff writer

Key ruling bloc and opposition lawmakers exchanged barbs Thursday in the Diet, opening a new round of squabbling following the enactment of a contentious secondary budget just two days earlier.

News photo
On the attack: Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticizes Prime Minister Taro Aso at the Diet Thursday. KYODO PHOTO

Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, took a shot at Prime Minister Aso's speech the previous day, when Aso pledged to rebuild a "secure and dynamic society."

The pledge is merely a "list of plain words," not a policy slogan, Hatoyama said during the Lower House session.

He also said the Aso Cabinet has lost the people's trust and is "the cause of sagging domestic politics and foreign diplomacy."

Public approval rates for the Aso Cabinet have dwindled below 20 percent in recent media polls.

With a new U.S. president in office, the Japanese-U.S. alliance needs to be renewed and developed, along with policies toward Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea, Hatoyama said.

But he noted the government's visions on these issues are unclear and a Cabinet lacking support from the majority of the public cannot effect diplomacy.

"You are not supported by the people in this country, so how could someone like you be trusted by other countries?" the opposition party executive asked.

On domestic issues, Hatoyama criticized the ¥2 trillion cash-handout program in the second extra budget that was passed Tuesday and said the money should be used for other purposes, including medical services, nursing care and child-rearing.

But Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda said the cash handouts will be effective and are expected to boost gross domestic product by 0.2 percent.

While slamming the DPJ for postponing the vote on the second extra budget, Hosoda also criticized other DPJ policies, including its proposal to subsidize the income of farmers, calling this pork-barrel spending.

Although the two secretaries general mostly dueled with each other during the boisterous session, they did manage to agree on one thing: taking action against "watari."

Watari, the practice of arranging a series of quasi-government jobs for retired bureaucrats in industries under the jurisdiction of ministries they once served in, allowing them to accumulate retirement benefits from each, has been decried by the public.

Aso, who had said he would approve only rare instances of the practice, seemed to agree to banning the practice Thursday. He has the power to approve or reject the arranged job migrations.

"I will not approve it when an arrangement is requested," Aso said.



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