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2014年9月 5日 (金)

安倍改造内閣 経済再生へ挙党態勢を固めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Abe’s new Cabinet must strengthen party unity, national economy
安倍改造内閣 経済再生へ挙党態勢を固めよ


The country is facing such major challenges as ensuring its escape from deflation, revitalizing the economy and preparing relevant national security laws to secure peace for Japan.

The new administration must tackle these issues unflinchingly through the concerted efforts of its new lineup.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reshuffled the Cabinet and the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

At a press conference following the Cabinet reshuffle Wednesday, Abe said: “We’re only halfway through reforms. I’ve reshuffled my Cabinet so we can carry out various measures more boldly and vigorously,” emphasizing the significance of the shake-up.

Eye on elections

For the party leadership roles, Abe appointed Sadakazu Tanigaki, a former LDP president and justice minister, as secretary general of the LDP, and Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, as chair of the General Council.

Abe also selected Tomomi Inada, who has been elected to the lower house three times and was state minister in charge of administrative reform, as chair of the Policy Research Council.

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura retained his post, while Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was appointed head of the Election Strategy Headquarters.

Abe apparently aims to stabilize his administration by maintaining a balance between veteran, middle-ranking and young lawmakers in the new party leadership. He likely attached importance to preparing for elections, with an eye on the Okinawa gubernatorial election in November, the nationwide local elections next spring or even a possible dissolution of the lower house.

Appointing a former party president as party secretary general is extremely unusual. Both Tanigaki and Nikai have connections to leading figures in China and enjoy good relations with New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner. Both are a type of politician quite different from Abe, who considers himself to be conservative.

With the appointments of Tanigaki and Nikai, it will be important to try to create harmony within the ruling camp and to expand the breadth of policy options. Top priority should be given to addressing major challenges through reinforced cooperation between the Prime Minister’s Office and the party leadership.

At one point, a conflict emerged between Abe and Ishiba over what to do regarding former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba in the latest reshuffle.

There were a number of unusual developments, including Ishiba publicly expressing his wish to continue as secretary general during a radio program. Abe reportedly considered giving no Cabinet post to Ishiba at all.

The two ultimately reached a compromise, leading Ishiba to become a Cabinet member.

It was an appropriate decision for both Abe and Ishiba, who were candidates in the party presidential election in the autumn of 2012, to avoid a head-on confrontation and maintain a whole-party approach.

If party unity dissolved into chaos only 20 months after the LDP’s return to power, it would hardly win public confidence.

Stability maintained

Six ministers, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who has earned a reputation for his crisis management abilities, kept their respective posts in the reshuffle, therefore maintaining the overall framework of the Cabinet. Key staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, including deputy chief cabinet secretaries and special advisers to the prime minister, all kept their jobs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is in charge of the Abe administration’s economic policy package, dubbed Abenomics, and Akira Amari, state minister in charge of economic revitalization, also remain in their respective posts.

Multilateral talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact are reaching a critical stage. The TPP negotiations are bound to determine the success or failure of the government’s growth strategy, which the prime minister calls the third arrow to be unleashed in his Abenomics economic policies.

We hope our nation will be able to reach an agreement with other participants in the TPP talks. This goal should be pursued through cooperation between Amari, who is also in charge of the TPP talks, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Koya Nishikawa, who previously served as chairman of an LDP panel charged with discussing how to deal with the TPP pact.

One priority facing the reshuffled Cabinet is to revitalize economies outside major urban areas, a portfolio that has been given to Ishiba. Pursuing this goal requires comprehensive measures to halt the ongoing population decrease, as well as mid- and long-term strategies. Steps include encouraging a number of urban residents to live in provincial areas instead, while also creating more jobs in such districts and offering child-rearing support. The task should be tackled by the government as a whole, with Ishiba as a central player in this respect.

Another cause for worry is the current economic conditions. The economy has been slow to improve, reflecting a decrease in consumer spending that followed a rise in the consumer tax rate to 8 percent in April. In December, the Abe administration must decide whether to increase the rate to 10 percent as initially planned. A key factor will be whether the government can prevent the economy from taking a downturn and put it back on a growth track.

Some members of Abe’s reshuffled Cabinet seem to have been chosen partly on the strength of their ideological affinity to the prime minister. They include Hakubun Shimomura, who stays on as education, culture, sports, science and technology minister. He is tasked with promoting education reforms.

Another similar minister is Eriko Yamatani, whose portfolio includes resolving the abduction issue. She is currently chairing the policy board at the LDP’s House of Councillors caucus. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, one of Abe’s close allies, has been named health, labor and welfare minister. He has been serving as acting chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council, and was chief cabinet secretary under Abe’s first Cabinet, which was in power about seven years ago.

We hope Shiozaki will encourage bureaucrats at his ministry to fully utilize their expertise in striving to make progress in reforming the social security systems.

In July, the Abe administration revised its official view regarding the nation’s right of collective self-defense under the Constitution, a move that permits this country to exercise the right under limited conditions. The prime minister intends to present a comprehensive picture of legislation needed to complement the government’s new position on the right during an extraordinary Diet session expected to be convened in autumn. This will likely be followed by a plan to ensure pertinent laws are established at next year’s ordinary Diet session.

The new portfolio regarding security legislation has been given to Akinori Eto, chairman of the lower house Security Committee. A former senior vice defense minister, Eto has also been made defense minister. His appointment to these positions can be seen as reasonable.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will continue to serve in that position under the reshuffled Cabinet. This seems to indicate Abe’s intention to secure the continuity of our nation’s foreign policy.

Efforts should be made to even more firmly cement the Japan-U.S. alliance through planned revisions to the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines toward the end of the year.

We also hope the government will work to ensure that summit meetings with China and South Korea take place, by taking advantage of such occasions as a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled for November in Beijing.

Female members to be tested

Abe has appointed five female lawmakers as members of his reshuffled Cabinet, including Yuko Obuchi as economy, trade and industry minister, Sanae Takaichi as internal affairs and communications minister and Haruko Arimura as state minister to promote women’s more active participation in society. The appointment of five women ties the all-time record for the most women in a cabinet.

The prime minister has advocated the need to transform our nation into “a society in which women can shine,” and several female officials have been given senior positions in the Kasumigaseki bureaucratic quarter. It is natural for Abe to appoint five women to his Cabinet in line with his own policy. They will be tested over whether they can successfully fulfill their duties.

In 2003, Abe was appointed LDP secretary general when he was serving his third term as a lower house member — an apparently unusual appointment for a legislator with a relatively short political career. We hope the prime minister will properly train such future leaders as Ishiba, Kishida, Obuchi and Inada during his days in office.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2014)Speech


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