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Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009

Aso unveils LDP policy platform

Analysts criticize far-sighted vows as lacking detail, proper funding


Staff writer

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.

Key LDP platform points

Kyodo News

The LDP pledges to:

• Achieve annual economic growth of 2 percent in the latter half of fiscal 2010.

• Boost per capita income to the world's highest level in 10 years by increasing disposable income by an average ¥1 million.

• Complete legislative action for tax reform by fiscal 2011 and hike the consumption tax once the economy recovers.

• Replace the current prefectural system with regional blocs within six to eight years.

• Resolve the lost pension records fiasco, possibly before 2011.

• Waive fees at nursery schools and kindergartens for children aged 3 to 5 in three years.

• Secure about 2 million jobs in the next three years.

• Boost solar power generation 20-fold by 2020 and 40-fold by 2030 from current levels.

• Raise Japan's food self-sufficiency rate to 50 percent and maximize farmers' income with every possible support.

• Continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Indian Ocean duty.

• Return to the black the primary balance of the central and local governments within 10 years.

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

• Not endorse or support candidates who inherit the constituencies of family members within three degrees of kinship or the spouses of retiring LDP members in and are retiring in elections after the Aug. 30 poll.

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.



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