The Yomiuri ShimbunHow should the government secure revenue for education? Should the cost be shouldered by current or future generations? Debate on these issues is heating up within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
While some argue that government bonds, which carry debt over to the next generation, should be used for the funding, others insist on introducing a new insurance scheme in which working generations share the burden.
The LDP’s special task force for securing revenue sources for the education budget, chaired by former education minister Hiroshi Hase, intends to incorporate the sources in basic policies for economic and fiscal administration and reform scheduled to be adopted at a Cabinet meeting around June. However, both ideas are rife with problems that make implementation difficult.
The LDP’s subcommittee for economic and fiscal visions in and after 2020, which comprises junior lawmakers including Agriculture and Forestry Division Director Shinjiro Koizumi, released a proposal for the introduction of a new insurance scheme for child-rearing and education on March 29.
At a press conference, Koizumi expressed opposition to the idea of introducing bonds for education that is being considered within the party. “[Issuing bonds] will place the burden on future generations. We don’t approve of them,” he said.
The new insurance scheme is characterized by burden sharing between working generations and companies. Funds collected from an extra premium added to public pension premiums would be used for child-rearing and child education. However, there are concerns that this may seem unfair to people who do not have a child or have already finished raising their children, and that discontent may grow if a premium is added to the field of education, in addition to medical and nursing care insurance premiums.
Many lawmakers who advocate budget discipline are seeking to increase the consumption tax. However, a further tax hike is needed to pay for education because the funds to be raised from increasing the consumption tax to 10 percent have already been earmarked. “It makes sense to use the consumption tax to cover education because it’s a stable resource paid by all citizens,” a senior lawmaker said, but the hurdles remain high.
The idea to introduce bonds for education was initiated by Hakubun Shimomura, executive acting secretary general of the party. It sparked debate over whether to secure a portion of the educational budget for free education at the university and preschool levels.
The education bonds initially gained momentum as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid attention to the discussion in the party. But as the debate on the insurance scheme for child-rearing started, concerns over the education bond have also been raised.
Shimomura told reporters on March 29 that people who shoulder the burden would eventually feel the benefits when children who grew up under the new scheme begin contributing to society. “With bonds for education, funds will be converted into human resources,” Shimomura said.