(Yomiuri: January 21, 2016 – p.4)
As the supplementary budget for fiscal 2015 has been passed, the main focus of attention in the Diet will now shift to maneuvering between the ruling and opposition parties over the budget for fiscal 2016. The government and ruling parties will put all their efforts toward the early passage of the budget. Since Diet deliberations have progressed according to the ruling coalition’s plan, the opposition parties have failed to demonstrate much political presence. However, viewing the alleged bribery scandal involving Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari as a good opportunity to turn the tables, the opposition camp intends to strongly pursue the issue of “politics and money.” All the more because Amari is a key cabinet minister supporting the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the issue could deal a major blow to the administration if it becomes serious.
Abe controls pace of deliberations
In the initial stages of Diet debate, the opposition side attacked a plan to provide cash handouts of 30,000 yen each to those who receive lower pension benefits included in the supplementary budget.
When the government side explained that the cash handouts would be provided until late June, just before the Upper House election, opposition members strongly criticized the plan, calling it “the ultimate election strategy” and “a waste of public funds.” Abe and other ministers rebutted by saying: “Cash handouts for the elderly who tend to spend money will shore up the economy.” Abe controlled the Diet debate at his own pace.
The opposition also focused on the substantial decline in stock prices since the beginning of this year. At a plenary session of the House of Councillors on Jan. 20, Soji Nanba, a member of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said, “Stock prices have continued to decline. The end of Abenomics policy is approaching in the stock market.” In response, Abe brushed aside the criticism, saying, “The fundamentals of the Japanese economy are solid.” (Abridged)