(Mainichi: January 30, 2016 – p. 2)
By Ai Yokota, Emi Yokota
There is increasing uncertainty in the Abenomics policies in light of the resignation of Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari, a key player in the Abe administration’s economic management.
Amari, who focused on economic growth, was able to push back the Finance Ministry’s insistence on fiscal discipline and realize such policies as bold corporate tax cuts, thus serving as the driving force behind the growth strategy. A government source notes that Amari’s replacement, Nobuteru Ishihara, is “not as keen on economic policy as Mr. Amari.” While no change is expected in the growth policy Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing, the power balance within the administration is likely to change.
After Amari announced his resignation, he had told his aides: “This job requires dealing with two forces of resistance, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Finance Ministry, and that is really tough.” He was worried about the steering of Abenomics from now on.
Ishihara has been vice chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Research Commission on the Tax System until his new appointment. The Finance Ministry is hoping for a “return to fiscal discipline,” while METI is concerned that it might lose political clout with Amari’s departure. The dominant opinion is that Ishihara “will not go as far as creating friction with others to assert his position,” according to a senior Finance Ministry official.
Ishihara is close to Abe, having been a fellow member of the policy group “NAIS no Kai” [a group consisting of LDP Lower House members Takumi Nemoto, Shinzo Abe, Nobuteru Ishihara, and Yasuhisa Shiozaki] since the 1990s. An aide to the Prime Minister observes that “although he will do what the Prime Minister tells him to, he will not be able to cold shoulder the Finance Ministry, so his policies may be mediocre.”
The key players in economic policy since the start of the second Abe cabinet have been Abe, Deputy Prime Minister cum Finance Minister Taro Aso, Amari, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Without Amari, the basic structure of the administration may change.
A Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) source says that, “The course of economic management has been set until the House of Councillors election this summer, so the only option for now is for Mr. Suga to take the helm.” Meanwhile, Aso has already stated for the record at a news conference on Jan. 29 that “Mr. Ishihara may not be good in this area.” (Slightly abridged)