Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio opened the new Diet session with an outline of his plans for the coming year. He talked about creating a new form of capitalism and promised bold actions to fight the coronavirus.
Kishida devoted much of his speech to his strategy to deal with COVID-19. He said he would be flexible and base his decisions on the latest scientific findings.
“I will deal with the situation using the latest knowledge and without fear. Although this is a policy we have already decided, we will not hesitate to change it as we go along if there is a better solution. We will adapt our response flexibly.”
Kishida says the government has asked municipalities to present their plans for administering the booster injections. The intervals between second injections and boosters will now be six months for the elderly and seven for everyone else.
“We will use the 18 million doses we have in reserve to start the process in March. Older people who had their second dose at least six months ago will be eligible. For the general public, 55 million people who have had their second dose seven months will be eligible. In some municipalities, we will reduce this to six months.”
Kishida referred to outbreaks at some US bases in Japan, saying the government will continue discussions on the issue through the Japan-US Joint Committee.
The prime minister said the key to Japan’s revitalization is an economic program he has dubbed “the new capitalism”, which he says will create a “more equitable distribution of wealth”.
He said neoliberalism, with its emphasis on deregulation and the free market, has widened disparities between rich and poor as well as between urban and rural areas.
Kishida said the world is beginning to move towards economic and social reforms that will help reverse the damaging effects of neoliberalism and create a sustainable society.
“My New Capitalism will be based on a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution. I will lead global movements through New Capitalism. With government and citizens sharing the big picture and working together, we will create a society where everyone can live happy and comfortable lives.”
One of Kishida’s priorities is to raise wages and narrow the income gap.
“If we distribute the fruits of growth to workers, it will lead to higher wages – an investment in the future – and become a source of additional growth. I will create such a virtuous circle.”
Addressing the annual labor-management wage negotiations held each spring, he said he hoped companies would raise wages for their employees.
Kishida, a former foreign minister, put China at the forefront of his foreign policy comments.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries – and although those ties have been strained in recent years due to China’s military buildup and assertiveness in the South and East China Seas, Kishida promised to create a constructive and stable relationship.
“We will say what needs to be said to China and firmly demand responsible actions. At the same time, we will dialogue and cooperate on issues where we share our concerns.”
Kishida also condemned the recent series of ballistic missile launches by North Korea and repeated an idea he has raised since his election: that Japan might need the capability to attack enemy bases.
“The government will strive to protect our lands, waters, airspace, and the lives and property of the people. For this reason, the government will spend a year developing a new national security strategy, new guidelines of the national defense program and a new medium-term defense programme.
The government will not rule out any options during these processes, including the so-called ability to attack enemy bases, and will consider them realistically.”
Analysis by senior NHK commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi
The main focus of Kishida’s political speech is his adaptability in how he will handle the pandemic.
The public seems to support this flexible approach, as its approval ratings have increased in recent weeks.
Kishida has also spent a lot of time talking about his “new capitalism”, but he has yet to offer any specific policies to back that up. He is right to point out the harmful effects of neoliberalism and to say that they must be corrected, but it is far from clear how he plans to do so.
It is not enough to ask companies to raise wages. Kishida said he will come up with a big action plan and action plan this spring. But unless he provides detailed explanations in the upcoming Diet debates, it might turn out to be just a nice catchphrase.
The 150-day session will continue until June 15, just before an election for the Upper House. The administration is trying to pass a budget bill for the new fiscal year, as well as a bill that includes tax incentives for employers to raise wages, and another bill to boost economic security.
Kishida believes that if his administration can get all of this through, it will convince voters to back the ruling party’s candidates.
He can, however, expect tough conduct in the Diet from opposition lawmakers who say the government’s anti-coronavirus measures are inadequate and want the government to get tougher on the US military in the first place. Japan about its coronavirus measures.
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Broadcast: January 17, 2022