In a policy speech at plenary sessions of both houses of the Diet at the outset of this year’s regular session on Jan. 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe failed to explain how he evaluates his 7-year-old government and what his administration intends to achieve in his remaining tenure.
What is surprising is his failure to mention any wrongdoing that has tainted his government.
It has come to light that a large number of supporters of Prime Minister Abe were invited to annual cherry blossom-viewing parties he hosted. Moreover, the management of official documents on the functions turned out to be illegal.
Furthermore, a legislator has been under arrest on suspicion of accepting bribes from a company attempting to participate in a project to open an integrated resort (IR) that includes a casino in Japan when he was serving as a state minister in charge of IRs. Prime Minister Abe appointed the legislator to that position.
Suspicions also surfaced that two Cabinet ministers who stepped down in autumn 2019 violated the Public Offices Election Act. Prosecutors have raided the offices of one of them, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, and his wife, House of Councillors member Anri Kawai.
The Abe government as a whole should reflect on these grave scandals that could shake the public’s trust in politics and get to the bottom of these cases, but the prime minister appears unwilling to do so.
Furthermore, the prime minister’s policy speech suggested that he was trying to turn his eyes away from a reality that is disadvantageous to him.
Abe called on the public to be united and “take a major step toward a new era” on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. This has given the public the impression that he is aiming to take advantage of the 2020 Games to enhance Japan’s national prestige by recalling the previous Tokyo Games held 56 years ago amid the country’s rapid economic growth.
Moreover, Abe said Japan has “completely overcome the feeling of resignation that Japan cannot grow any longer,” which he claimed had prevailed in the country until seven years ago.
He apparently criticized Japan’s economic condition under the previous administration led by the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan. However, he has failed to show specific proof that Japan has emerged from this feeling of resignation.
Prime Minister Abe proudly cited growth in Japan’s tax revenue and an improvement in the employment situation as achievements of the “Abenomics” economic policy mix promoted by his administration. However, his evaluation of achievements made by his government is insufficient unless disadvantageous indices, such as the ongoing population decline and the state debts that have surpassed 1.1 quadrillion yen are taken into consideration.
The prime minister failed to mention that the number of babies born in 2019 is estimated to have dipped below 870,000 while saying the government is “determined to squarely confront the declining birth rate that is becoming increasingly serious.” This attitude is highly questionable.
Prime Minister Abe has declared that the government is resolved to transform the social security system that focuses on elderly people into one covering all generations. However, the social security reform policy cannot be recognized as one that can deal with long- and medium-term challenges such as the continuing population decline and the concentration of the population in Tokyo.
One cannot help but wonder whether Abe attempted to maintain the unity of his longstanding administration by repeating the phrase, “a new era,” and underscoring the need for revisions to the postwar Constitution as “a historical mission.”
If the prime minister were trying to take advantage of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to spread an optimistic mood and divert public attention from scandals and problems his administration faces, he would deserve criticism that he was trying to use the games for political purposes.