Still, the Times Are Changing

Discussions have got off to a turbulent start in the newly convened session of the Diet, and attention is focusing on whether the new government's budget for the next fiscal year (April 2010 to March 2011) will be enacted by April. In the end, I imagine that the budget draft probably will be approved, passed, and put into effect on time.

As a result, the Japanese people will come to enjoy the benefits of measures that are completely different from those of the previous administration and truly sense what it means to have a change of government. Support for the ruling parties and the government likely will increase, and the economy will probably begin a gentle upturn. And not far off there will be an election for the House of Councillors. If the present government is able to maintain its simple majority in the upper house, the economic upturn will continue, and measures to counter deflation will probably begin to have a certain effect.

In any case, government stability is the most important thing for the people's lives. Indeed, the public sentiment in Japan right now is that the government really must remain stable because it has at last broken away from the coldhearted politics of the past and promised to restore genuine happiness to people.

Naturally, the basic item on the agenda at the moment is passage of the budget. Budget revenue consists of tax revenue and government bonds. Since the total sum is ¥95 trillion, no doubt many people were astonished when Minister of Finance Naoto Kan spoke of a total budget of ¥205 trillion. I also was surprised at what seemed to be incredible ignorance, and I am sure that many people shared my feeling.

We often hear about the so-called buried treasure. I wondered where these funds came from, and now, thanks to Finance Minister Kan's appearance on the scene, I understand the details. The buried treasure is, in a sense, the business revenue of each ministry or agency; in other words, it is the independent budget of the ministry or agency. For example, the buried treasure comes from renewal fees for driving licenses, various registration fees, and so on. Certainly the revenue from matters under the jurisdiction of each ministry or agency is huge, and it is this revenue that makes up the funds of special accounts. The people always thought that the general budget is based on tax revenue and government bonds, so naturally they now want to know the content of this extra ¥110 trillion and its uses.

I felt as though I had witnessed the core of government change in the process of project screening, but from April the government plans a thorough screening of the special accounts as well. Since the dark side of the bureaucratic structure is going to be fully exposed to broad daylight, this will probably be an epochal event in the process of government change.

In the general account the shortage of tax revenue has been spoken about for a long time, but in the fiscal 2010 budget tax revenue will be an all-time low of ¥35 trillion, which is less than half of the ¥95 trillion budget. Hence government bonds will be issued, as a result of which the country's debt, including loans, will be more than ¥864 trillion. This is a mind-boggling figure. We must watch closely to see how the new government will handle this debt from now on.

I was relieved to see that the eco-point system for household electric appliances will be continued in the fiscal 2010 budget, and at the same time an eco-point system for housing will be introduced as well. As a result, this tailwind behind the industry will continue to blow, although it is also a fact that many businesses handling non-eco-point products had a rough ride at the end of last year.

The management of audio specialty stores is especially severe. I believe that audio stores themselves are in a maelstrom of business change. The mind-set of users is definitely changing, and naturally fund shortages will occur if old management methods are continued. It is a harsh environment, but now is the time for specialty stores to break out of the conventional mode and usher in a new age of the specialty store. Corporate group stores with roots in the local market are doing well precisely because of their animal-like and opportune business approach.

The times, without doubt, are going to change. Let us do our best so that we do not miss the new wave.