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Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009
Aso unveils LDP policy platform
Analysts criticize far-sighted vows as lacking detail, proper funding
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Taro Aso revealed the campaign platform for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday, pledging to bring about 2 percent economic growth in the second half of 2010 and boost Japan's per capita income to among the highest in the world within 10 years.
In unveiling the LDP platform for the Aug. 30 Lower House election, Aso also mentioned a future consumption tax hike in an attempt to pitch the LDP as a responsible force capable of leading the country to prosperity at a time when it is facing a legitimate chance of losing power for only the second time in decades.
"I have said that once the economy recovers, I will overhaul the tax system including a raise in consumption tax to fund social security and (measures for) the low birthrate," Aso said. "It is the responsibility of politicians to say what needs to be said, even if the public may not want to hear this."
Critics said the LDP's platform lacked punch and many of the promises lacked specific measures and the funding needed to carry them out.
"There were no surprises in the manifesto and it lacked punch," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University. "There is no real change because the LDP is relying on existing methods based on the rules made by the bureaucrats."
One relatively detailed pledge is aimed at abolishing the prefecture system and reorganizing the country into regional blocs. The LDP would enact a fundamental law to form the blocs and aim to launch the new system within six to eight years after enactment around 2017.
Political analysts, however, said the LDP was looking too far into the future and its platform should have instead focused on the next four years — the official term of the House of Representatives.
"A manifesto is not supposed to be talking about such a long term — it should be more about (what the party plans on doing) in the next four years," Iwai said.
Another key pledge is for comprehensive reform of the tax system be "put into practice without delay after the economic situation improves," an apparent hint at the consumption tax hike. It added that necessary legal measures would be implemented by fiscal 2011.
"We must raise the consumption tax in the future and we would turn it effectively into an earmarked tax in the next few years, only using the revenue for social security and measures for the low-birthrate," LDP lawmaker Hiroyuki Sonoda told reporters Friday.
"Until then, we will have to cut annual expenditures and under certain circumstances, we may have to issue more government bonds."
The LDP has criticized the DPJ, claiming the party is introducing policies without any financial backing. As the "responsible" party, the LDP is set to use the tax hike as the source of revenue for a stable social security system and for other measures to support child-rearing.
Sonoda said the LDP's policies, unlike those of the Democratic Party of Japan, were mainly focused on continuing and strengthening existing policies, meaning "We don't plan on explaining how much each pledge is going to cost like the DPJ did."
"Because the DPJ wrote out the details of its pledges, it has higher risks," Nihon University's Iwai said. "The LDP, on the other hand, mentioned a tax hike, but that should not excuse them from explaining the details of the source of revenue" to back up its policies.
The LDP also declared that it would aim to revise the Constitution as soon as possible, promised to finish sorting out the pension record-keeping fiasco that surfaced in 2007 by the end of 2010, and to cut 30 percent or more of the number of Upper and Lower house members in 10 years.