The following is the gist of interpellations at the Upper House budget committee meeting on June 11, 2020:
Subsidy program for sustaining businesses
Renho (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): The subcontracting and second-tier subcontracting of the subsidy program for sustaining businesses designed to help smaller companies has been a major problem. Do you think it was appropriate?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: It was decided through a rules-based process.
Renho: The government outsourced the program to the Service Design Engineering Council. Does the organization really exist?
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama: The government has outsourced projects to the organization before. We entered into the contract because we believe the organization actually exists. My understanding is that staff members of the organization are teleworking. They are actually working and reporting to us. Everything can be done by teleworking.
Renho: An intermediary is “skimming off” some of the funds.
Abe: I don’t think that expression is appropriate. The funds will never go into the pockets of a contractor.
Kajiyama: This project is too big for one company to handle. Several companies are taking part in the project as a consortium to divide up the roles.
Teruhiko Mashiko (Democratic Party for the People): Why didn’t the government entrust the administrative work to the chamber of commerce?
Economy Minister Kajiyama: The chamber of commerce was busy giving management advice to business operators in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Yoshitaka Saito (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): How will the government spend the 10 trillion yen in reserve funds under the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2020?
Abe: The coronavirus outbreak will affect not just certain industries, such as tourism, but a wide range of industries. We have to add reserve funds so that we can respond to various possibilities.
Toranosuke Katayama (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): How about compiling a third supplementary budget?
Abe: We have to make unprecedented efforts to weather a national crisis of a scale that only happens once every 100 years.
Mashiko: The government needs to examine the response to the new coronavirus and conduct a midterm reassessment of it.
Abe: It was a historic incident, so we have to carefully examine our response after the situation is fully under control.
Request for school closures
Mashiko: Do you plan to issue a nationwide school closure request if you declare a state of emergency again?
Abe: Whether the request will be nationwide or not is a separate issue.
September start of school year
Mashiko: What is your take on the idea of starting the school year in September?
Abe: It would be ideal for many people to be in agreement. The issue requires intensive discussions.
China’s pursuit of fishing boat
Satsuki Katayama (Liberal Democratic Party): China Coast Guard ships pursued a Japanese fishing boat in Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. The government should release the video footage.
Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Seiichi Eto: We will seriously consider your request for the release of the video footage.
Easing of immigration controls
Seishi Kumano (Komeito): What does the government think about resuming travel to and from foreign countries?
Abe: We’d like to continue to give careful consideration to partially or gradually resuming travel by striking a balance between PRC testing and other measures to prevent the spread of infection. (Abridged)