The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday released a 17-page booklet of its policies for the upcoming general election that lacks specifics in at least two key areas.
One of the most symbolic items deals with the privatization of the nation’s postal services, one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s pet reform projects.
The passage vaguely declares that the LDP will “draw a conclusion by around fall 2004 (after) considering of the government’s policy to privatize the postal services in April 2007.”
This appears to be a clear pullback from Koizumi’s pledge to privatize the postal services in April 2007.
Postal privatization is vehemently opposed by a number of LDP lawmakers.
Although Koizumi and his aides insist they did not make any concessions on the issue, most party members regard the ambiguous wording as a political compromise to allow both sides to interpret it in their own favor to save face.
Koizumi can say the party will “take into consideration” his call for privatization; his critics are happy that they’ve managed to put off a decision until the fall of 2004.
“That sentence doesn’t say at all what decision the party will make,” said Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan. “It’s clear as mud for people.”
The LDP also appeared to have difficulty grappling with the underfunded public pension system.
The ruling party has often been indecisive in drawing up promises on such politically sensitive issues, coming through only in the very last minute. That process emerged again Friday.
A draft version of the booklet distributed to reporters around 11 a.m. did not mention a hike in the government’s financial burdens for the public pension, but the latest version, as of 2 p.m, did.
The rise in the state’s burden is widely expected to inevitably lead to a hike in the consumption tax, a potentially risky move for the government.
Tsutomu Takebe, vice chairman of the party’s policy platform committee, said the LDP voluntarily inserted that sentence. He said there has been pressure from its coalition partner, New Komeito, to do so.
Health minister Chikara Sakaguchi, a New Komeito member, has advocated a large increase in the government burden for the pension system and in the tax increase as well.
Other main policy pledges include:
Bills will be submitted in 2004 to privatize road-related semigovernmental firms.
Plans will be drafted on reforming the public pension system by the end of year.
Economic growth of 2 percent will be realized in fiscal 2006.
The budget will achieve a primary balance in the early 2010s.
Public safety will be improved via such measures as halving the estimated 50,000 foreigners illegally staying without proper visas within five years.
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