Utilize Debate to Deepen Public’s Understanding of Key Policies

Japan is facing a number of difficult situations, including its declining birth rate and the deteriorating national security environment. The government and the ruling and opposition parties need to discuss specific measures to overcome these challenges.

The House of Representatives Budget Committee has begun basic discussions on the fiscal 2023 budget plan. The committee must engage in debate that will deepen the public’s understanding of important policies.

To strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities, the government intends to set defense expenditures at ¥43 trillion over the five-year period beginning in fiscal 2023. This is 50% higher than the current defense plans.

Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Katsuya Okada said the overall picture of what defense equipment would be introduced was unclear, including the number of missiles to obtain counterattack capabilities. “The [budget scale of] ¥43 trillion came first. It got ahead without explanations or deliberations,” Okada said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida responded: “We reached that scale after holding discussions for more than a year and adding up the content of the necessary defense capabilities.” The prime minister did not specify items such as the number of missiles to be introduced.

It is commendable that the prime minister boldly reviewed the budget in light of the deteriorating security environment and significantly expanded the defense budget. However, there are many unclear aspects of how the budget will be spent and how it will be financed.

While it is understandable that details regarding equipment and other items cannot be disclosed for security reasons, it is important to explain to the extent possible, for the public to gain understanding of the need to strengthen defense capabilities.

Okada also said, “The security environment is getting more difficult, and my perception is no different from that of the prime minister.” If that is the case, the CDPJ, as the largest opposition party, must present concrete measures to strengthen defense capabilities, not just criticize the government’s procedures.

Eligibility for child allowances has been the focus of the debate over measures to combat the declining birth rate. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi has proposed eliminating the income limit.

In response to Okada’s question about whether the income limit should be abolished, the prime minister only said, “We are working on specific details to realize the policy.”

Some people question the effectiveness of expanding cash benefits as a measure to combat the declining birth rate. The ruling and opposition parties must delve deeper into discussions on what measures are necessary to build a society in which it is easy to have and raise children.

In response to the government’s policy of extending the operational life of nuclear power reactors to beyond 60 years, the CDPJ’s Seiji Osaka emphasized the risk of accidents and said the government is leaning too much toward utilizing nuclear power.

Japan’s energy self-sufficiency rate is only about 10%. It is appropriate that the prime minister said the government will “promote the use of all energy sources, including nuclear power.” The government must explain the importance of utilizing nuclear power to the fullest extent.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2023)