Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.25 (April 3, 2008) ============================================================
"The responsibility of politicians. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
I did so with the intention of creating an opportunity for talks with the opposition parties and reaching agreement by the end of March, so as to prevent any major disruption from occurring in the people's lives and local finances.
Then, on the very evening after the e-mail magazine was sent out, I held a special press conference at which I made new proposals for the revision of revenue sources earmarked for roads.
The first of these proposals is to root out wasteful uses of revenues. Improper spending, including purchases of articles used for relaxation, should never be allowed. Moreover, I made it clear that we will abolish or privatize public interest corporations that depend largely on the road budget and thoroughly eliminate non-transparent practices of senior government officials obtaining posts in related organizations after retirement from public office.
My second proposal is to allow revenues from the gasoline tax to be used for various policies including global warming countermeasures, the enhancement of emergency medical services and countermeasures against the declining birthrate. To do so, we will phase out the system of earmarking revenue sources for roads at the end of FY2008, and from FY2009 will reallocate revenues from the gasoline tax and other taxes to the revenues used for general purposes, rather than setting them aside only for roads.
The third proposal calls for us to shorten the road development plan from ten years to five and to review the entire plan on the basis of the latest data in order to ensure that it makes provisions only for those roads that are truly necessary.
All of these proposals were made as responses to issues that came to light during deliberations in the Diet. Therefore I believed that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and other opposition parties would come to the discussion table.
In the end, it was regrettable that we could not arrange talks with the DPJ and we ended up running out of time before the bill related to the gasoline tax could be deliberated even once during the month of March in the House of Councillors, where the opposition parties hold a majority of the seats.
There can be no doubt that from the point of view of the people even a small reduction in taxes would be preferable, especially now that the rising price of goods, beginning with foodstuffs, is increasingly burdening households.
It is very easy to say that we will reduce taxes.
However, if the gasoline tax remains at a reduced level it will result in the loss of 2.6 trillion yen in revenue, which amounts to one-fifth of the consumption tax revenue. As such, some local governments may have no choice but to review welfare, education, and other services provided to local people.
There remain a plethora of tasks that the Government must address including global warming countermeasures and initiatives in the health and welfare sectors, all of which depend on stable revenue sources.
What is more, currently both national and local finances are saddled with huge debts. We would certainly not be fulfilling our responsibilities as politicians if we were to simply lower taxes without a clear future prospect, shifting a greater burden on to our children and their children.
I think the responsibility of politicians is to ask the people to bear the necessary burdens from the perspective of protecting the lives of the people and the economy, rather than merely courting popularity.
I would repeat that the fundamental premise of this is that not one single yen of the taxes entrusted by the people is to be wasted.
To ensure this, I will aim to achieve zero waste not only in the budget for roads, but also in all outlays and will thoroughly review the actions of public interest corporations and end the non-transparent practice of retired civil servants landing positions in the private sector.
I will earnestly continue with my efforts to get the DPJ and other opposition parties to enter into talks. I call on them to commence deliberations in the House of Councillors at the earliest possible date, so that we can conclude these matters.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
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