TOKYO – Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said Tuesday he sees no problem with a warning by the ministry’s top bureaucrat against a “lavish spending” policy proposed by lawmakers, saying it only reflects his view on fiscal consolidation.
Suzuki defended Vice Finance Minister Koji Yano, who recently contributed an opinion piece to a monthly magazine in apparent criticism of new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s large-scale stimulus plan, saying it was “just an individual view expressed as part of a general policy debate for fiscal soundness.”
The rare move by Yano, who criticized stimulus proposals by both ruling and opposition lawmakers in response to the coronavirus pandemic in the article contributed to the Bungeishunju magazine, has drawn ire from some ruling party members.
Yano’s argument “does not contradict the government’s policy on the basic level,” Suzuki said, adding that former Finance Minister Taro Aso had approved the top official’s contribution to the magazine before its release last week.
“It’s fine that we have various discussions, but once we set the direction, those concerned must go along with it,” Kishida said Sunday on a TV program in reaction to Yano’s opinion piece.
Sanae Takaichi, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who vied for the LDP leadership last month with Kishida and two others, expressed displeasure over Yano’s argument, saying on a different TV program Sunday it is “very rude” and “nonsense” as she called for spending to support “children and those in trouble.”
Kishida, who is set to dissolve the powerful House of Representatives on Thursday for a general election Oct. 31, has pledged to compile an economic package worth “tens of trillions of yen,” or hundreds of billions of dollars. Opposition parties have also called for large-scale stimulus plans ahead of the poll.
Yano said in the article that stimulus plans “including their costs and adverse effects should be thoroughly examined,” comparing Japan’s current fiscal situation to “the Titanic rushing toward an iceberg.” He did not name any lawmaker in the contribution.
The upcoming economic stimulus could worsen Japan’s fiscal health that is already the worst among major developed countries, with public debt at over 1,200 trillion yen ($10.6 trillion) as of March, more than double the country’s annual gross domestic product.