Legislators must fully examine issues in Budget Committee debates

The Yomiuri ShimbunAre the current Diet deliberations getting near the essence of the nation’s domestic and diplomatic issues? The government and the ruling and opposition parties must try to promote a constructive battle of words.

Interpellations have started at the Budget Committee in each house of the Diet.

The focus of attention is a bill aimed at revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to expand the acceptance of foreign workers. The legislation would create new residence statuses, thereby permitting foreign nationals to work in certain industries that face a serious labor shortage. Given the decrease in the working-age population, there is no other way but to facilitate legislative measures to further open the door to foreign nationals.

The opposition parties have pointed fingers at the legislation as a possible means of accepting immigrants. “[Foreign nationals] would not be granted permanent residence just because they acquire residential status. Only after their activities are strictly examined would they be given such permission,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe replied.

The government needs to clarify such matters as the scale of accepting foreign nationals, and promptly show the whole picture of the planned system. Doing so would alleviate the anxiety of the public and promote understanding among them.

The opposition parties are criticizing the bill as “ill-prepared,” as specific examples of unskilled labor have yet to be established.

Legislators should not just engage in preliminary deliberations but thoroughly debate the objectives of the revision bill and the problems involved.

It is necessary to make preparations for foreign workers to join the medical care insurance, pension and other systems so they can adjust to our society. It is also important to discuss such pending issue as whether medical care insurance programs that foreign nationals join should also be applied to their families in their own countries.

Ministers must deliver

Talks agreed upon between the Japanese and U.S. governments over a trade agreement on goods (TAG) are being debated as another major point of contention.

The government has explained that the talks are limited to goods, as the TAG is different from a free trade agreement (FTA) that includes rules on services and investment. The opposition parties are criticizing the government, saying that the United States is not using the term TAG.

What is important is to ensure the agreement will bolster the interests of both Japan and the United States. It is vital to debate essential issues, such as Japan’s stance and principles regarding the talks, not solely engage in futile discussions about the name of the agreement.

The government should respond firmly if the United States demands unreasonable concessions, seeking to reduce its trade deficit as a top priority.

Suspicion has emerged that regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama acted as a go-between, using her influence over the national tax authorities. According to the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, a private secretary for Katayama, who was asked by a company owner to arrange for that company to remain eligible for preferential tax treatment, received ¥1 million from the business operator, and she telephoned a National Tax Agency employee.

In response to questions raised by the opposition parties, Katayama denied acting as a go-between. She should fulfill her accountability by closely examining all the facts of the issue.

There have been occasions on which new Cabinet ministers have answered questions in a dubious manner. It is important for them to sincerely fulfill their duties with a sense of discipline.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 7, 2018)Speech


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