The Japanese Communist Party has no plans to change tack ahead of the upcoming general election, training its guns on the policies of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whom it accuses of pandering to big business and the United States.
In an interview with The Japan Times, Kazuo Shii, the 49-year-old chairman of the JCP Executive Committee, stated that many of Koizumi’s policies primarily serve these two entities rather than ordinary people.
For example, businesses will probably benefit more than the public from the proposed reform of the social security system, if, as Shii suspects, their financial burden is reduced by way of a consumption tax hike. He instead advocates cutting public works and defense outlays.
On the diplomacy front, Shii said the government has been “subordinate” to the United States, particularly in supporting the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
“We shouldn’t be at the beck and call of the U.S. Our party would launch a reform drive that could create a truly independent, peaceful Japan,” Shii said. “Especially, Japan should cancel its plan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq.
“We would seek the abolishment of the Japan-U.S. security treaty,” the Communist chief said, repeating standard JCP policy. “It should be replaced with a treaty of friendship.”
Shii meanwhile said that even though the ruling coalition, led by Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party, has repeatedly denied any immediate plans to hike the consumption tax, the government hopes eventually to raise the levy to prop up the ailing social security system, particularly the pension insurance system.
Many experts agree that a consumption tax hike is inevitable, given ballooning social security costs and the debt-ridden national coffers.
The public pension system for salaried workers is currently financed by insurance premiums, government tax revenues and partial outlays by employers. Shii claimed the government has a hidden motive for raising the levy — easing the burden on employers.
The JCP has maintained steadfast opposition to any further consumption tax hike.
Instead of raising the tax, Shii insisted the rising social security costs could be covered by cutting public works and defense budgets by as much as 10 trillion yen and increasing the tax burden on big corporations and high-income individuals.
“It’s only logical that we ask people with high incomes and major companies to take on a heavier burden commensurate with their abilities,” said Shii, who argued that social security measures should be spending priorities with “king’s status.”
Beyond calling for a greater social security budget, Shii had no ready answers for how the JCP would go about recovering a primary balance in the ailing national coffers — a condition in which expenditures excluding debt-servicing costs are fully covered by tax revenues.
He said that “at this stage, it is difficult to say when we can recover the balance.”
Shii was also mum on whether the JCP would join a coalition government centered around the Democratic Party of Japan, if the opposition parties capture a majority in the House of Representatives in the Nov. 9 election. “It is too early to answer that question,” he said.
Given the huge policy divides between the JCP and other opposition parties, especially over defense issues, a coalition could only come about if the parties could reach common ground.
“Of course, we could carry out our election pledges if we participated in the government,” he said. “But it does not mean we can’t do anything if we are not part of it.”
Although the JCP has never been anything but an opposition force, the party has achieved many of its policy pledges by taking up those issues in Diet sessions, Shii claimed. “Japan now needs an opposition party that can really function like one,” he said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.