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DPJ's manifesto lacks realistic visions, policies
Publication Date : 29-11-2012
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) must have spent time and effort on a sweeping review of its manifesto for the 2009 general election, which came in for severe public criticism. But will the contents of the new manifesto be applauded by the people?
The DPJ has finally come up with the new manifesto for next month's House of Representatives election.
The campaign platform unveiled by the DPJ lists five areas as policy priorities: social security, economy, energy, diplomacy and national security, and political reform.
Reflecting on the failure of the previous manifesto, which was filled with unrealistic campaign pledges, including somehow squeezing out 16.8 trillion yen (US$204.50 billion) in fiscal resources, the party kept mentions of numerical targets and deadlines to a minimum. This is natural. But the new manifesto still contains many policy goals with slim chances of being achieved.
Pension folly persists
On social security, the new manifesto, like the previous one, calls for establishing a minimum pension payment system and abolishing the special medical insurance system for people aged 75 or older. Concerning the minimum pension idea, the DPJ stopped short of mentioning a "monthly payment of 70,000 yen." But the party estimates that an additional consumption tax increase of up to 6.2 percentage points would be required to guarantee this amount of minimum monthly pension payments.
The party says the minimum pension payment will be decided after discussions by a planned national conference on social security system reform. But it is obvious that the policy lacks realism at a time when restraints on welfare benefits are increasingly called for amid the aging of the population combined with the nation's chronically low birthrate.
Regarding energy policy, it is irresponsible for the party to adhere to a policy of ending reliance on nuclear power generation in the 2030s, which has been put forth by the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
The manifesto lists various measures to achieve the zero nuclear option, including a review of the nuclear fuel cycle, maintenance of human resources and technology, international cooperation and the dramatic spread of renewable energy. But the manifesto stops short of presenting concrete measures and road maps to realise these policy targets.
Such a manifesto is tantamount to a campaign pledge backed by no fiscal resources. As such, it lacks power to win over the voters.
A retreat on TPP issue
On the issue of Japan's participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiations, the DPJ avoided presenting a clear stance.
Its campaign pledge only mentions that the government will judge whether to join the TPP talks after promoting discussions on the issue together with a tripartite free trade agreement with China and South Korea and a regional comprehensive economic partnership for East Asia.
In doing so, the manifesto stresses that the government has yet to decide on the matter out of consideration to DPJ peers who are wary of or opposed to TPP entry. This represents a retreat from Noda's policy speech to the Diet in October in which he clearly mentioned a push for entry into the TPP talks.
It is also problematic that the manifesto was decided in line with the intentions of a small number of party leaders, something it has in common with the previous campaign platform, the compilation of which was led by former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa. But the party's failure to present a TPP policy along the lines desired by Noda even after extensive intraparty discussions on the matter inevitably makes us feel uneasy about the DPJ as a ruling party.
On diplomacy and security issues, the DPJ's manifesto consists of abstract arguments from beginning to end, including rhetoric about "deepening the Japan-US alliance."
If the manifesto is left as it is without mentioning concrete visions such as enabling Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence--as mentioned in the Liberal Democratic Party's campaign platform--and revision of Japan-US defence cooperation guidelines, it is nothing but pie in the sky.