(Sankei: February 4, 2016 – p. 5)
On Feb. 3, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) established “the subcommittee for planning economic and fiscal policy after 2020,” which is chaired by Keiichiro Tachibana, member of the House of Representative, and charged with studying medium-to-long-term finances. The LDP appointed Shinjiro Koizumi as secretary general of the subcommittee. Koizumi is the director of the LDP’s Agriculture and Forestry Division. One of the major themes of the subcommittee will presumably be “social security.” As the LDP “special-interest lawmakers” are influential in this field, Koizumi’s management skill will be tested.
“We will steadfastly implement social security reform, keeping in mind the future generations,” said Tomomi Inada, Chairman of Policy Research Council of the LDP. She made this comment on Feb. 3 in a meeting of the special committee on financial reconstruction. She made clear that she will take on vested interests in the area of social security. With the voting age being lowered to 18 beginning with the House of Councillors election this summer, Inada aims to attract young voters by creating policies on marriage and child rearing for young people.
The LDP appointed Koizumi because he is popular among the younger generation. The party expects Koizumi to demonstrate practical and ground-breaking capability. In last October, following the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the LDP appointed Koizumi director of agriculture and forestry division. He vigorously visited farmers and related facilities across the country and put together domestic countermeasures to mitigate the impact of the TPP on farmers.
“Only 0.1% of the total budget is allocated to agriculture,” said Koizumi on Jan. 14. “If the bank does not help farmers, there is no reason for such a bank to exist.” Thus Koizumi criticized the Norinchukin Bank, demonstrating his aggressive attitude toward agriculture-related banks.
There is another aim in giving Koizumi this challenging portfolio. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to take a scalpel to social security, which is called “the last sanctuary.”
In last October, Abe removed Takeshi Noda, then the LDP Chairman of Research Commission on the Tax System, who had refused to follow Abe’s instruction regarding reduced tax rates in combination with the increase of consumption tax. In this way, Abe began dismantling the commission known as “the largest sanctuary within the party.” Similarly, by appointing Koizumi director of agricultural division, Abe intended to contain “faultfinders” during discussions on TPP countermeasures.
“Koizumi will only be able to discuss issues,” said a member of the health ministry lobby. “He won’t be able to do anything substantial.” As Noda chairs the Special Committee on Social Security System within the LDP and its leading members belong to the health ministry lobby, they may disrupt constructive discussions.
Sensing such an atmosphere within the LDP, Koizumi told the press, “I will broadly discuss not only social security and financial issues but also education and job creation, as well as the low birthrate.” In this way, Koizumi indicated that he will not single out social security. Nevertheless, resistance from the health ministry lobby is inevitable.