Trying to grow up, DPJ to review 2009 manifesto
Prime Minister Naoto Kan and DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada listen to comments from party lawmakers at Wednesday's meeting. (Teruo Kashiyama)
Soon after the Democratic Party of Japan took power in September 2009, doubts, confusion and even ridicule emerged over the lofty promises in its campaign manifesto. Still, party leaders clung to the contention that they could find the money needed to carry out their vows. They tinkered with the projects, whittled down other programs and scrounged everywhere for funds.
But this week, in a possible sign of maturity--and still nearly 13 trillion yen ($156.6 billion) short of its target--the DPJ leadership acknowledged defeat.
"We will create a party organization after (Thursday's) party convention to conduct a more thorough examination of our manifesto," DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada said at Wednesday's meeting of all party lawmakers.
DPJ officials now realize that their campaign promise to drastically rewrite the budget to implement their pet projects would be impossible to meet because of the utter failure to come up with the necessary revenue sources.
Party officials have apparently decided to provide a thorough explanation to the public on that failure and present a new picture of what revenues and expenditures would look like after the review. Such an explanation is considered necessary to gain acceptance from the public before a comprehensive revision of the taxation system that would involve raising the consumption tax rate.
Although some party members, including power broker Ichiro Ozawa, insist on sticking to the promises, the DPJ leadership, at Thursday's party convention, proposed a comprehensive review of the various projects and budgets the DPJ sought when it was an opposition party.
Projects considered "low priority" would be slashed or eliminated altogether.
Internal party debate centered on the Policy Research Committee will continue until August before a conclusion is reached.
Koichiro Genba, who chairs the Policy Research Committee, said that August, which marks the halfway point of the four-year terms of Lower House members, would be a good time to review the campaign manifesto that led to the election of those lawmakers in 2009.
Genba indicated the policy measures in the manifesto would be classified into four groups: those that have been implemented; those that have already been revised; those that should be implemented in the future by coming up with the necessary revenues; and those that should be abandoned because of a lack of revenues.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a TV program Jan. 5 that the overall manifesto had to be revised.
The DPJ needed to come up with 16.8 trillion yen to implement pet projects included in the manifesto, including the monthly child allowance and a proposal to eliminate expressway tolls. The party promised to come up with the funds by eliminating wasteful spending and drastically rewriting the budget.
Public attention was fixed on how the DPJ would change the policies implemented during the decades-long rule of the Liberal Democratic Party. But the DPJ's efforts to eliminate waste for the fiscal 2010 budget only freed up 700 billion yen.
Unable to thoroughly rewrite the budget, the DPJ-led government came up with a budget in fiscal 2010 with a record level of expenditures.
Desperate to secure revenue sources for its pet projects, the DPJ revised its campaign manifesto for the July 2010 Upper House election, giving up on providing full payouts of the child allowance of 26,000 yen a month per child. The party also had to downsize the scale of its plan to eliminate expressway tolls.
In the budgets for fiscal 2010 and 2011, however, the DPJ could only come up with 3.9 trillion yen of the 16.8 trillion yen.
The government tried to fill the gap by digging out "hidden treasures" from reserve funds of independent administrative agencies and special accounts. But those funds can be used only once and are not a permanent revenue source for DPJ policy measures.
In response to calls at Wednesday's meeting to fulfill the campaign promises, Genba said: "While we said we would come up with 16.8 trillion yen, in the first year we were only able to come up with 3.3 trillion yen and in the second year only 600 billion yen. This is the reality. Conducting a comprehensive review is what the party in government must do."
Another DPJ executive said, "We have to meticulously analyze why we were unable to fulfill our plan to come up with revenue sources and bow our heads to the people."
However, the review may hit snags because those close to Ozawa insist that the DPJ should keep those promises.
At Wednesday's meeting, Lower House member Hiroshi Kawauchi said, "It will cause huge problems if, after contesting the Lower House election with the manifesto, we turn around and say about those promises, 'Let us now review them.'"
The opposition parties could also refuse to enter discussions with the DPJ to revise the taxation system, even if the manifesto is reviewed.
The opposition parties have called for an end to some of the DPJ's major policy proposals, including the child allowance and the proposal to make senior high school education effectively tuition-free.
這次改組與以往不同的是，被更迭的大臣並非受到傳媒、輿論追究醜聞或失責而遭撤換，而是因在國會參議院 佔多數議席的在野黨去年在參議院採擇了追究仙穀和國土交通大臣馬淵澄夫責任的決議案，並威脅如果菅直人不更迭他們，在野黨將罷審今年的財政預算案和相關法 案，迫使菅直人猶豫再三，終於在這個月下旬新一屆國會開始前的罕見時期，被迫改組內閣。