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Regarding Christina Tsuchida’s Nov. 8 letter, “Retreating from the car boom“: I have an opinion about Japan’s future that a lot of domestic and foreign media do not share. I believe that Japan still has an economic margin to stave off worse times ahead while it tries to find a way to improve society.

First, the Japanese social security system is so lenient toward “weak people” and so inflexible that it has become extremely wasteful and costly. If we could adjust this socialistic system into one whose costs are proportional to the size of a citizen’s purse, the government financial situation would dramatically improve.

Second, some industries protected by the government are very inefficient and lack a market mechanism. For example, the Japanese medical industry is geared not to protecting patients’ benefits but rather to securing job opportunities for doctors and to protecting the industry’s vested interest holders. If the industry opened its services to the world — in addition to Japanese citizens — the economy would benefit. I think that joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be the beginning of such reform.

Finally, I trust that normal Japanese people live beyond their means unconsciously. There is no other country where normal people go out drinking with their colleagues after work so often and go to see the doctor so casually as in Japan. As a result, Europeans, with their high consumption tax rate and heavy social security costs — including a monthly premium for private health care insurance — appear much more frugal than the Japanese. Most Japanese enjoy the economic margin to pay a higher consumption tax.

Japan still has time to change its social and economic structure, which the TPP would help, and to enjoy prosperous times again.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

shuichi john watanabe

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