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Learning English - Words in the News
07 May, 2004 - Published 11:31 GMT
Japan pension resignation
Yasuo Fukuda, a key Japanese minister, has resigned after admitting he failed to pay into the national pension scheme.

Yasuo Fukuda, one of the important ministers in Junichiro Koizumiís Japanese government, has resigned after admitting he failed to pay into the national pension scheme. This report from Jonathan Head:

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The loss of Yasuo Fukuda is a blow to the Japanese prime minister. He is a close personal ally and advisor and he's been the principal spokesman for the Koizumi administration for the past three years.

The cause of his departure is even more worrying for the government because he's not alone in having failed to make payments into the national pension scheme. At least six other ministers have admitted to similar lapses, although the scandal has also caught out a number of opposition politicians.

The revelations are acutely embarrassing at a time when the government is struggling to persuade the general public to keep up their contributions to the pension scheme. Many Japanese fear the scheme will be unable to pay them their full benefits when they retire because of the shrinking proportion of young people in the population.

The fact that so many politicians have not kept up their contributions will make it all the more difficult for them to push through the reforms necessary to keep the pension scheme afloat.

Jonathan Head, BBC News, Tokyo

Listen to the words

a blow
something which will cause damage

business or political friend

main, most important

careless mistakes

the scandal
the embarrassing and damaging situation

things which were secret but which have now been told

to keep up
to continue regularly

here, payments which have to be made

getting smaller

to keep the pension scheme afloat
to stop the pension scheme from collapsing


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