Abe emphasizes economy, avoids constitutional revision
By Harukata Takenaka, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies
The policy speech lacked in-depth discussions on constitutional revision and maintained a focus on the economy as expected. But it gave the impression that his emphasis has shifted from when he came to power. He called for child-rearing support as part of his “investment for the future” initiative. That is important, but it sounded like he was focusing on distribution.
Of his growth strategies, Abe brought agriculture and tourism into the spotlight. If he wants to make Japan an attractive tourist destination for foreign visitors, he should ease regulations on minpaku, the practice of renting vacant rooms in apartments or private residences to travelers, during the current Diet session. If he is calling for “eliminating the term ‘non-regular’” under his work-style reform initiative, he should drastically overhaul the conventional labor and employment practices. He will be tested on his commitment to realizing these changes.
The momentum has been boosted as a result of the victory Abe clinched in the House of Councillors election. In the policy speech, he should have demonstrated his commitment to tackling “bedrock” regulations. What will he do about legislation to change the hourly wage system? Will he review corporate governance? The Democratic Party has yet to present counterproposals. This is also one reason why the government has not developed a strong sense of urgency.
Plan for realizing longer-term vision is unclear
By Shunsuke Kobayashi, economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research
The policy speech highlighted a shift in the focus of Abenomics from short-term monetary policy to a longer-term vision. Abe has made growth strategies and fiscal rehabilitation his central policy while calling for carrying out institutional reforms. He included specific measures, such as strengthening the functions of local airports and ports, as a way to revitalize the local economy and demonstrated his commitment to stepping up this effort more than before.
To realize the dynamic engagement of all citizens, it is important to continue to take steps next year and onward instead of one-off measures. Abe has set long-term goals for building infrastructure for nursing care and child-rearing services and changing the practice of longer working hours, but how he will realize these goals is unclear.
For example, he could have called for removing the “1.3 million yen threshold” in social welfare insurance as this can be achieved in the short term. He should work out specific measures as soon as possible so he can send out the message both at home and abroad that the government is making steady efforts to carry out institutional reforms and realize growth strategies simultaneously.