The following is the gist of the interpellations at the Upper House Audit Committee meeting on April 1, 2020:
Emergency economic package
Shoji Nishida (Liberal Democratic Party): The coronavirus outbreak has dealt a devastating blow to the aviation industry. The government should present support measures.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: The airlines are fundamental infrastructure for our national economy. In order for us to achieve a V-shaped (economic) recovery, fundamental infrastructure must not be damaged. We want to support the industry from that perspective.
Nishida: The government needs to lower the consumption tax rate.
Abe: We’ll carry out bold, short-term measures to stimulate demand focusing on such hard-hit industries as tourism, transportation, restaurants, and events after determining when the infection might be brought under control. We want to implement direct, accessible, and effective measures for people in dire circumstances. We must consider (slashing the consumption tax rate) from the perspective of ensuring immediate results.
Toshiyuki Adachi (Liberal Democratic Party): I want the government to compile a large supplementary budget to finance public works projects as an economic measure.
Abe: We’ll compile emergency economic measures next week to take steps that include a full range of fiscal, monetary, and tax measures.
Tadatomo Yoshida (Social Democratic Party): The government needs to take fiscal measures for regional areas.
Abe: This is a national crisis of a level that Japan hasn’t experienced since the end of World War II. The internal affairs ministry and municipalities will work together by cooperating closely.
Mikishi Daimon (Japanese Communist Party): The government should reduce the consumption tax rate.
Abe: We gave broad consideration without eliminating any options and came to the conclusion that this time we’ll intensively invest in the hardest-hit sectors to spur demand.
Declaration of a state of emergency
Kuniyoshi Noda (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): The government should be fully prepared for an emergency by securing the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Village (to accommodate patients), for example.
Abe: We’ve already begun preparations for various possibilities based on the worst-case scenario of a spike in the number of patients in Tokyo, for instance. The Olympic Games will be postponed for one year. So we’re considering whether we can use for medical purposes the accommodation facilities that were intended for police officers who were supposed to come to Tokyo from across the nation for patrolling activities.
Yoshida: The prime minister should carefully decide whether to declare a state of emergency based on the special measures law against new types of influenza.
Abe: Japan is not yet in a situation where I need to declare a state of emergency.
Yoshida: The prime minister should attend the Diet and make explanations before declaring a state of emergency.
Abe: Please understand that declaring a state of emergency means we’re in a very serious situation and requires prompt actions.
Shinji Takeuchi (Komeito): During a press conference on March 28, the prime minister said, “I’m prepared for a prolonged battle.” What did you mean by that?
Abe: Even if we are fortunate enough to avoid an “overshoot” (an explosive increase in the number of patients), the critical period might continue for some time.
Takeuchi: In what circumstances would the prime minister declare an emergency?
Abe: At this moment, Japan is barely managing to maintain the situation in which no nationwide rapid rise of infections has been reported. However, if we were to relax our vigilance even a little, it would not be surprising if the virus were to spread suddenly at any moment. The situation is changing minute-by-minute. We want to respond appropriately by closely monitoring infections in the country and carefully listening to experts’ opinions.
Mizuho Umemura (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): How will the compensation be handled if the government uses accommodation facilities for medical purposes?
Abe: The central and Tokyo Metropolitan governments will be responsible for paying compensation for the hotels used for such purposes.
Yoshida: I want the government to explain the meaning of a lockdown to the public.
Abe: If you were to ask me if we could enforce a lockdown like France, the answer would be no. There is a misunderstanding there. We may make many requests, but (the situation) will have different characteristics from those in countries like France.
Tokyo Olympic Games
Takanori Yokosawa (Democratic Party for the People): We want to hear the prime minister’s message to the athletes who are training hard for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Abe: The Games will be a symbol of humankind’s victory over the virus and be historically very important.