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Record-keeping blunders at the Social Insurance Agency prompted the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito to write in just one day a bill to remove the five-year limit on retroactive claims for pension benefits. The ruling coalition then rushed the bill through the Lower House after only five hours of panel discussion along with a separate bill to abolish the agency and transfer its functions to a new entity in three years.

The hasty move shows that the ruling coalition is more intent on creating the illusion that the pension problems have been dealt with rather than taking the necessary time to carefully discuss how to resolve the many problems that plague the pension system. The coalition wants to prevent the problems from becoming an issue in the coming Upper House election. Its attitude is most regrettable because the pension system is a lifeline for most retirees.

The agency is having trouble verifying up to 50 million flawed pension premium-payment records. Although the problem is immense, the government has suddenly declared that the verification work will end in about a year. The completion of this work means that pensioners may become eligible for more benefits. Because the current five-year limit for retroactive claims is likely to be a source of complaints, the ruling coalition haphazardly wrote the bill to remove this restriction. But the bill does not mean an automatic increase in benefits even if it is found that the agency had failed in the past to accurately record one’s premium payments. Pensioners themselves must be aware that these payments were previously unaccounted for and must apply to receive the additional benefits.

The bill to abolish the Social Insurance Agency is mere fiddling with an organizational setup. It’s more important that both the ruling and opposition blocs build a truly reliable system by delving into how and why the agency has performed such sloppy work, including the record-keeping blunders as well as its failure to reduce the number of people who do not pay premiums.

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