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Editorial: Scandals hang over Abe as coronavirus measures prompt surge in spending

The state budget for fiscal 2021 was approved in the Diet on March 27. Yet it does not include funds to cover countermeasures against the novel coronavirus that is spreading throughout the world. Naturally, this does not mean the budget matter has settled.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is poised to work out emergency measures to tackle the virus-related issues, and compile a supplementary budget draft to finance the measures. The government will appropriate reserve funds until the supplementary budget is approved.


However, before doing so, the government should have adjusted its initial budget draft to set aside as much funds for virus countermeasures as possible in the state budget. If it had done so, it could have won public understanding while demonstrating to the world how Japan is fighting the pandemic.


It is the Diet’s role to better the state budget through deliberations between the ruling and opposition blocs. However, some take the view that the government should not bow to opposition parties to modify its draft, exposing the administration’s rigidity that is preventing it from promptly responding to this serious situation.


Regarding the supplementary budget, simply adding funds is not enough. Since financial resources are limited, work to slash funds allocated for non-essential policy measures is necessary.


While the public’s eye is focused on the pandemic and the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a series of scandals involving the Abe government have yet to be settled.


No progress has been made in efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal involving annual cherry blossom-viewing parties hosted by the prime minister, which has raised suspicions of violations of the Public Offices Election Act and the Political Funds Control Act.


On top of this, suspicions are deepening over the extension of the tenure of Hiromu Kurokawa, superintending prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, who is believed to be close to the administration.


Full-scale deliberations will commence on a bill to amend the Public Prosecutor’s Office Act, which has been drafted as if to maintain consistency with the extension of the Kurokawa’s retirement age. We once again demand that the bill be scrapped.


In a favoritism scandal involving Moritomo Gakuen, a school operator that had links to Prime Minister Abe’s wife Akie, notes written by an official of the Kinki Local Finance Bureau, who killed himself in 2018 after becoming involved in the doctoring of relevant Finance Ministry documents, have come to light. It is plain to see that these notes have revealed several new facts. It is therefore incomprehensible that Prime Minister Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso have dismissed requests for re-investigations into the case.


Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abe stubbornly argued during a March 27 Diet session that his wife “wasn’t having a cherry blossom-viewing party like those typically held at parks” following media coverage on his wife holding a sakura-viewing gathering with acquaintances while the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was asking the public to refrain from holding outdoor parties.


The prime minister’s remark shows that he apparently does not understand what is being called into question and that his attitude has not changed at all. Considering that he is asking the public for cooperation in fighting the novel coronavirus, he would do well to show a little more humility.

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