• Jiji


Some key policies that have been put forward by the four candidates for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party include unique ones that are considered by many to be unfeasible.

Regulatory reform minister Taro Kono, who oversees the coronavirus vaccine rollout, has backpedaled on his controversial proposal to create a minimum guaranteed pension program that would be financed entirely by tax revenue, a proposal that has met with skeptical reviews.

“I thought we had to discuss pensions. I don’t necessarily stick to any specific idea,” Kono, 58, said on a television program on Friday. The comments marked a stark contrast with his earlier remarks that a minimum guaranteed pension was “needed.”

Kono’s proposal called for revising the kokumin nenkin basic pension program, which is currently paid for equally by premiums and tax revenue, into one financed fully by consumption tax revenue in order to guarantee a certain amount of pensions to all citizens regardless of incomes.

A drastic hike in the consumption tax rate is seen as unavoidable for creating such a minimum guaranteed pension system.

The government led by the former Democratic Party of Japan, inaugurated in 2009, abandoned its bid to build such a system although the party included it in its general election pledges.

After Kono proposed a minimum guaranteed pension program during a media interview before the start of official campaigning for the coming LDP leadership election, the other three candidates criticized the suggestion in chorus, calling it difficult or impossible and saying the proposed system would fuel public anxiety.

In the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which stemmed from the DPJ, a senior official said that “there is no room for introducing such a system, unlike 12 years ago,” noting that the consumption tax rate has since been doubled to 10%.

People close to Kono had to advise him to qualify his proposal.

A key policy proposal of former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida, 64, is a modern version of the income-doubling plan introduced in the 1960s by former Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda, who founded what is now the Kishida faction in the LDP.

But the historical backgrounds of the two policies are clearly different, as Ikeda pushed forward his plan in the early years of the high economic growth period.

Even in the Kishida faction, a middle-ranking member said, “He (Kishida) went too far.”

Former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, 60, proposed that Japan should possess the capability to neutralize enemy bases — a revamped version of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s idea of Japan acquiring the capability to strike enemy bases.

Takaichi specifically called for the capture of or interference with satellites, and the use of electromagnetic waves.

But her proposal is far from realistic at present. One lawmaker close to the defense industry blasted it as a chaotic policy, while a baffled senior official of the Defense Ministry said he does not understand her real intention.

LDP deputy secretary-general Seiko Noda, 61, has always underscored the need to tackle Japan’s low birthrate when asked about the rickety public pension system and the lack of new applicants to join the Self-Defense Forces.

But successive governments have failed to come up with a workable solution to the low birthrate, and few think it possible to sort out the problem in the short term.

Whoever wins the LDP leadership election, set for Wednesday, is all but assured of becoming prime minister due to the party’s majority in the House of Representatives.

The incoming prime minister is expected to face the pressure to deliver on policy promises made during the election campaign. “(The new leader) could be forced to take political responsibility” if he or she fails to fulfill the pledges and carry out the policies, a senior official of one ministry said.

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