Interpellations by leaders of opposition parties in response to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administrative policy speeches have started in the Diet.
This year marks a milestone as the Summer Olympics will be held in Japan for the first time in half a century. Ruling and opposition parties should hold a solid debate on the future course of the nation.
Yukio Edano, leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, cited “ensuring mutually supported social security” and “sharing wealth” as directions to be aimed for by a future government that he hopes to lead.
Valuing redistribution of income, Edano aims to ensure more generous social security. It can be said that he has put forth a policy stance in direct contrast to Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy that attaches importance to economic growth.
As concrete measures, Edano listed such measures as raising wages of childcare workers and nursing care staff. He called for, among other things, toughening taxation measures on high-income earners to ensure tax revenue. But concern cannot be wiped out that this will dampen people’s motivation to work and reduce vitality.
Edano should present a compelling growth strategy, such as promoting technological innovations, to expand the economic pie amid the declining population.
Abe said that his government “will bolster a virtuous circle of growth and distribution and make all-out efforts to have pay increases permeate through all sectors.” Meanwhile, escape from deflation has been only half achieved. The ruling and opposition parties are called on to deepen debate on measures with a view to realizing robust growth.
That Edano did not present visions on foreign and security policies leaves something to be desired.
North Korea’s nuclear threats have not decreased, while China — ramping up its authoritarian rule — is in an escalating confrontation with the United States. It is imperative to discuss countermeasures by looking squarely at international affairs.
Edano spent plenty of time interpellating the government on scandals involving the government and the Liberal Democratic Party, including the issue of cherry blossom viewing parties hosted by the prime minister. He criticized the government, saying that the scandals represent “the Abe administration’s propensity to protect vested interests, use public money for private purposes and hide scandalous matters.”
The number of people invited to cherry blossom parties has indeed swollen under the Abe administration, and sloppy administration of public documents, including lists of names, has come to light. This may shake the people’s trust in administrative offices. Thorough measures to prevent a recurrence of similar scandals are called for.
In connection with the corruption scandal over integrated resorts featuring casinos, a House of Representatives lawmaker, who served as a state minister of the ministry in charge, has been indicted. In answer to opposition interpellations on the matter, Prime Minister Abe said, “I accept it seriously.” The public takes a stern view of casinos.
The government will put off deciding a basic policy in regard to IR promotion. An idea has been floated to restrict contacts between administrative offices and entities involved in IR projects so as to prevent their collusion. It is necessary to study the content of a basic policy meticulously.
As for constitutional revision, Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, called for withdrawing the LDP’s proposal to add legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9. He stated that the proposal “lacks logical consistency.”
It is imperative for Diet discussions to concretely address how the SDF should be defined, without indulging in endless criticism.
— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 23, 2020.