TOKYO (WASHINGTON POST) - The Japanese government and ruling parties are struggling to calm the furore over a report stating that an elderly couple will need savings of 20 million yen (S$251,840) in addition to their pension benefits in order to cover their living expenses after retirement.
This figure was given in a report submitted by the Financial System Council of the Financial Services Agency (FSA), an advisory panel to the prime minister.
Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is also minister of state for financial services, said at a press conference on Tuesday (June 11) that he would not accept the report, and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has asked the FSA to withdraw it.
The government and ruling parties are trying to end the uproar as soon as possible ahead of the House of Councillors election this summer.
"As the minister in charge, I won't receive the report as an official document," Mr Aso said at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The report was scheduled to be submitted to Mr Aso after going through the council's general meeting.
"(The report) also differs from the government's policy position," Mr Aso said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the report is "in the discussion stage", insisting that the content is not government policy.
LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai told reporters at the party headquarters on Tuesday: "We're very concerned, because the report has not only given the public a mistaken impression, it has caused anxiety.
"The Upper House election is around the corner. Our party must be careful not to cause any trouble to our candidates."
Ruling coalition partner Komeito's leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said at a press conference during the day: "The government should provide an appropriate explanation to the public so as not to mislead them."
The report estimated that a couple whose husband retired at the age of 65 would face a "deficit" of about 50,000 yen per month, resulting in a shortfall of about 20 million yen in living expenses over the next 30 years.
The government and ruling parties are on edge about this issue.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's first administration suffered the revelation in 2007 that pension records had been lost, triggering a public backlash and leading to a crushing defeat for the LDP in the following Upper House election.
Two months later, Mr Abe suffered an illness that caused him to step down as prime minister. For that reason, the party feels a strong sense of urgency this time around.
Opposition parties intend to make the issue a point of contention in the upcoming Upper House election.
Therefore, the LDP is trying hard to prevent public distrust from spreading to the entire pension system, as Nikai insisted that the council's estimate "is a different matter from the pension system".
LDP Policy Research Council chairman Fumio Kishida told reporters emphatically at the party headquarters: "(The estimate is) extremely sloppy and not suitable for proper policy discussion."