On the Inauguration of Prime Minister NODA Yoshihikofs Cabinet
Statement by ODAGAWA Yoshikazu,
Secretary General of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
September 2, 2011
A new cabinet led by Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko (Democratic Party) was inaugurated today (Sep.2). Noda is the sixth Japanese prime minister in the last five years. The Washington Post described this political dysfunction in Japan as gleadership merry-go-roundh@(August 27, 2011). This has had adverse effects in many ways, as clear from delays in recovery from the March 11 quake and tsunami in eastern Japan and in post-disaster reconstruction and damage from radioactive materials massively released from the crippled Tokyo Electric Power Companyfs Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The present political stalemate has the most serious impact on the socially disadvantaged, including the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami, the working poor, who have dramatically increased in number since the job market collapse began in the second half of the 1990s, and those people who are not entitled to receive pension benefits. We demand that the new government pay utmost attention to people who are experiencing economic hardships.
The first thing Noda did after being elected as prime minister was to declare in talks with the leaders of the opposition Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties that his government will implement the "three party agreement" to discard or review some of the public promises the Democratic Party made in the 2009 House of Representatives general election, including the child allowance and abolition of tuitions for senior high school. Public expectations for the DPJ were betrayed at the start of the new cabinet.
Prime Minister Noda has also made clear that his government will pursue a grand coalition of the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito in pushing ahead with major policy agendas, including a massive tax increase under the name of a unified reform of tax and social services systems and under the pretext of the need to fund post-disaster reconstruction and Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
This political stance has pleased the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and other business organizations, which are poised to cheer government. We must be prepared for a danger that politics serving the interests of the business sector will pick up under a grand coalition setup.
Since the March 11 disaster and amid the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japanfs local economies and small- and medium-sized businesses have been increasingly complaining that they are forced to pay the cost of international competitiveness gained by large exporters. Domestic demand is shrinking in Japan, mainly due to the declining job market and the falling wages. The structural reform policy based on the economic efficiency-first principle, which has gutted the social security programs, is being called into question. Calls for the structural reform policy to be reviewed are growing.
One typical example is that there are moves calling for an end to the present energy policy that has heavily depended on nuclear power generation through continuing to construct nuclear power plants by giving priority to the industrial policy over the establishment of adequate safety measures. In Miyagi Prefecture, fishermen are fiercely opposing the prefectural government's plan to create a special economic zone to help rebuild the local fishing industry. These moves represent nothing but contradictions between politics in the interests of large corporations and the general public.
A grand coalition of parties, if established through back-stage negotiations, will without doubt further deepen antagonisms between policies called for by the financial circles and the changing awareness of the public.
Zenroren has been demanding that post-disaster reconstruction be based on the principle that victims are the key players. It has said that the nuclear disaster be brought under control as early as possible and that TEPCO pay damages. It urges the government to move away from nuclear power generation in an energy policy shift, take measures to help small- and medium-sized businesses, ensure stable and quality jobs and improve social services. The Zenroren movement for these demands will make clear contradictions between adverse politics and the demands of the people and create huge trends moving toward political change.
Zenroren will engage in this yearfs autumn struggle as an opportunity to confront the Noda government, which will call back politics serving the interests of the financial circles. We will advance joint struggle for common demands.