Abe advances pension cleanup dates as public fumes


Embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that he would move up the timetable for taking care of the public pension record-keeping debacle as public fury builds ahead of the crucial House of Councilors election later this month.

The fate of Abe’s Cabinet is believed to hinge on the July 29 election, in which 121, or half, of the Upper House seats are up for grabs. But the pension fiasco, other scandals and gaffes involving his Cabinet ministers have eroded Abe’s public support ratings to their lowest since he took office last September.

“People must feel strong rage over the pension system,” Abe told a news conference after the extended Diet session came to a close Thursday. “I apologize to everyone as head of the government. All the trouble (about the pension records) should be solved under my Cabinet.”

According to his new plan, the government will finish matching up the 50 million unidentified pension premium records to payment data kept by the Social Insurance Agency by next March at the latest, or two months ahead of the initial deadline of May.

The 50 million records in the computer system were classified under an old identification number system, which the government pension body left untouched, and left unmatched with records under the new identification number system introduced in 1997.

The government will also finish mailing notices to present and future pensioners to inform them of their premium payment records no later than October 2008.

It is still unclear, however, how many records will be cleared up because some of them are likely to have erroneous personal data input by SIA workers in the 1980s.

The eventual cost of matching the records also remains unknown.