Let's get back welfare services in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election -- Akahata editorial, June 2, 2001

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election will be announced on June 15 and polled on June 24.

The Japanese Communist Party has proposed as the top priority item in its election platform reinstating the slashed social services and establishing a system of breaks related to nursing care insurance charges. The JCP is in touch with a wide range of organizations including senior citizens clubs to seek their support for the proposal. Many people turned out to be very supportive.

Welfare is now a major issue in the election.

Major issue to be immediately dealt with

The plight began in March 2000 when the Liberal Democratic Party, the Komei Party, and the Democratic Party of Japan in the metropolitan assembly enacted measures to end the free pass system for the elderly for the metropolitan-run transit systems and to phase out subsidies for medical costs for elderly people and welfare benefits for them.

Before the change, 780,000 people were holders of the free traffic passes. Following the change, 540,000 of them now have to pay 1,000 yen for the pass, although they need not pay residential taxes due to their low income level. Those who pay residential taxes have to pay 20,510 yen to apply for the pass. Those who pay the residential tax and hold the free pass now pay 5,000 yen for the pass, but beginning in 2003 they will have to pay 20,510 yen to renew the pass. Legally, the amount they must pay can be increased at the governor's discretion.

The change has caused more than 100,000 people to give up their free passes.

Subsidies to medical costs for elderly people will be phased out by the use of age limitations. The change is designed to completely abolish the subsidy system by the end of June 2006. About 100,000 people are now ineligible for the subsidy system. Metropolitan government statistics show that people between the ages of 65 and 69, previously eligible for subsidies to medical costs, are those who need medical services the most. Ending the subsidies will have serious adverse effects.

The other question is the nursing care insurance which imposes serious burdens on the citizens.

Even now, people hesitate to use nursing care services for fear of having to pay for the services in addition to their regular payment of premiums. Nursing care insurance premiums will double from October. A survey shows that lower income people need more medication. It is an urgent task to establish a system of reduction and exemption on the nursing care insurance charges. If the Tokyo Metropolitan Government becomes the first prefecture in the country to set up such a break system on its own initiative, it will be of great influence nationally.

Last March, the JCP submitted to the assembly a proposal to redraft the budget for FY 2001 to recover welfare programs eliminated or reduced in the original budget bill. Just two billion yen is enough to maintain the free transit pass program for the elderly and 5.4 billion yen for the subsidy for their medical charges. An additional 8.5 billion yen will help to establish a new financial assistance program for the elderly using the nursing care services.

Tokyo's annual budget is about 12 trillion yen! Only a small piece of warm heart can make the difference to meet the needs of elderly Tokyo residents.

But the LDP, Komei, DPJ, and other parties turned down the JCP proposal on the grounds that it is "anachronistic" (LDP), or "seeking restoration of measures of old days" (Komei). In the last election four years ago, both the LDP and the Komei Party pledged to maintain the free pass system, but they broke their promise and dashed the people's hopes.

The Komei Party is the most responsible for these adverse changes. Although it supported ending the free pass system in the assembly, it alleges that the one thousand yen payment isn't meant for collecting fares but a collection for small administrative fees, thus repeatedly calling the JCP a liar. How malicious they are in trying to deceive the people by telling a false story before Tokyo residents!

The JCP embraces broad-ranging demands of Tokyo residents

The demand for measures for the elderly is shared by a wide range of the Tokyo citizenry, including young people, as one of the most urgent demands. Thus the JCP's call for "welfare program budgets to be recovered" is fully supported by the people.

Both inside and outside the assembly, the JCP has struggled in cooperation with citizens to get the reduced welfare budgets restored. The JCP has been doing its utmost in the metropolitan assembly and in districts to demand together the recovery of reduced programs. The task now is to achieve a major JCP advance in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election to make our call heard. (end)

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