As long as they are striving to become the leader of the nation, it is important for the contenders for the Liberal Democratic Party presidency to make their firm views known about how they perceive the times and the nation’s image, and to debate concrete policies.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida and former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, all running for president of the LDP, appeared in a debate hosted by the Japan National Press Club.
Suga, who is seen as a favorite to become the new LDP president, has touted the slogan “Self-help, mutual help and public help.” This is a phrase also found in the party platform. Suga has further said he will “create a society that is trusted by the people, by demolishing the vertical divisions of ministries and agencies to proceed with regulatory reforms.”
Led by Suga, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe implemented such measures as easing visa requirements, which boosted the number of foreign tourists to Japan. Suga apparently intends to carry out such regulatory reforms in various fields, to promote economic growth.
In contrast to Suga, who has been advocating the continuation of the current administration’s policies, Kishida and Ishiba have pushed for revising or changing them.
Pointing out there have been criticisms of neoliberalism, which gives priority to market principles, Kishida said he will “firmly confront the issues of inequality and division.” Ishiba said he will “aim to create a society in which each person can find a place to belong.”
Was the widening gap brought about by the Abenomics economic policy package, or not? What should be the balance among self-help, mutual help and public help? It is hoped that Suga will accurately analyze the existing problems in society and clearly discuss what roles the government should play.
Suga said it is important to boost employment through economic growth. However, it is not easy to improve the employment situation at a time when the novel coronavirus crisis has made it difficult for companies to even continue their operations.
Measures must be implemented to stimulate demand in a timely manner, while improving testing and medical systems. The government should continue providing support to companies in need.
It is essential for the prime minister to exercise strong leadership to swiftly resolve policy issues by ensuring that complicated administrative organizations function properly.
While maintaining the system led by the Prime Minister’s Office, the policy decision-making process should be made transparent, so as not to invite criticism that it is dogmatic. The new prime minister must create an organization with an open atmosphere.
It is only natural that Suga has indicated his intention to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of the problem of falsifying public documents. However, can he gain an understanding without discussing in depth an appropriate way to manage such documents?
Regarding a consumption tax hike, Suga has stressed that he “holds exactly the same opinion” as Abe, who sees no need to do so for the next 10 years. Asked about the comment he made about this matter on a TV program, Suga said his intention was that “we should not rule out what may happen in the future.”
While it is not realistic to raise taxes in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, this should not stifle future discussions. Discussing an increase in the financial burden on the public is also one of the responsibilities of politicians.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 13, 2020.