Kishida must present specific steps for realizing goals in policy speech

It is important to prevent the novel coronavirus variant from coming into Japan while also promoting economic revival. The prime minister needs to present specific steps to achieve these goals, and make steady progress.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivered his policy speech at plenary sessions of both chambers of the Diet. He said he will “meticulously and carefully implement measures” against the novel coronavirus, emphasizing, “I will take all the criticism for potentially being too cautious.”

The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is spreading around the world. The government must strengthen its surveillance system and make such preparations as securing hospital beds.

In his speech, Kishida said the timing of booster vaccination shots against COVID-19 “will be moved forward as much as possible depending on the degree of priority.” The plan had been, in principle, that booster shots would be administered eight months or more after a person’s second shot, but Kishida said they could be done without waiting that long.

The effectiveness of the vaccine is seen to decline over time, so it is reasonable to advance the timing.

However, it is not clear whether the vaccines crucial for this purpose will be supplied in time. It is important to secure a sufficient amount of vaccine, based on the lessons learned from the first half of this year, when there was confusion due to a lack of progress in distributing vaccines to municipalities. There is also an urgent need to utilize surplus vaccines and establish criteria for who receives priority in vaccinations.

The prime minister argued that the neoliberal theory, in which everything will be fine if matters are left to the market and competition, has caused disparities to widen. He touted his goal of realizing a “new form of capitalism” and appealed for the “achievement of growth and distribution.”

As specific measures, Kishida cited increasing wages for such professionals as childcare workers and the expansion of tax support for private companies that raise salaries.

The growth rate of wages has been stagnant for a long time. It remains to be seen whether these measures alone will lead to higher wages and increased consumption among a wide range of people. Further measures will likely be necessary to create a “virtuous cycle of growth and distribution.”

As part of his economic security measures, Kishida presented a policy to revise related laws to establish a fund to encourage overseas semiconductor companies to set up factories in Japan.

Japan relies on imports for more than 60% of its semiconductor demand, so it is significant to establish a stable production system. It is essential that the public and private sectors work together to strengthen the supply network in a wide range of fields.

The prime minister expressed his intention to visit the United States at an early date and meet with U.S. President Joe Biden. With North Korea’s missile launches and other issues in mind, he said the government will “consider the matters realistically without eliminating any options, including the capability to attack enemy bases.”

A strong and stable Japan-U.S. alliance is essential for peace and prosperity in Asia. Japan and the United States should urgently discuss effective ways to jointly enhance deterrence.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 7, 2021.