Prime minister must reestablish footing, move policies forward

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can be said to have managed his administration solidly in the face of internal and external crises. Kishida now needs to reestablish his footing and map out a clear path to economic revival.

Six months have passed since the Kishida Cabinet was formed. Kishida told reporters: “There have been a series of tough decisions. I want to continue to work with a sense of crisis.”

Throughout this period, the Cabinet’s approval rating has remained above 50%. This is a stable start — many cabinets often see sharp downturns despite initially high expectations.

The sixth wave of novel coronavirus infections has passed its peak, and quasi-emergency priority measures to prevent the spread of the virus have been lifted completely. Kishida has made efforts to explain the situation to the public, including frequently acquiescing to reporters’ requests for briefings. This attitude may have gained a certain level of understanding.

But, the number of people newly infected has begun to increase in some areas. If infections spread again, it could pour cold water on the economic activities that have begun to take off. It is essential for the government to flexibly operate PCR testing and medical care systems to prevent a seventh wave of infections.

Following the end of Noriko Horiuchi’s term as minister in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations, the prime minister assigned Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno to concurrently serve as vaccine minister.

Only 40% of the population has received a booster shot, and it is undeniable that the delay in the start of inoculations affected the spread of infections. It is important for the government to step up its efforts, such as by further publicizing the benefits of vaccination to the public.

In cooperation with the United States and other Western countries, Kishida has stepped in to impose severe sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. It is only natural that he strongly emphasized his stance of not allowing the status quo to be changed by force.

The prime minister must face the increasing harshness of the security environment in East Asia and accelerate the review of how to drastically strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities.

The economic outlook is shadowed by uncertainty. If energy and food prices continue to rise, it could have a serious impact on people’s livelihoods.

The government intends to formulate a package of emergency economic measures by the end of April. Every possible step should be taken to ensure that the supply of goods does not become unstable.

The ruling parties are calling for benefit measures as they take into consideration the House of Councillors elections this summer. The government and the ruling parties have to communicate well with each other to assess the effectiveness of the policy measures so that they do not become mere handouts.

It is unfortunate that the specifics of the “new form of capitalism” that the prime minister advocates are still unclear. How can economic growth and wage increases be achieved? It is important for the prime minister to exercise his leadership to clarify the details and procedures involved in certain measures, and to promote them effectively.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2022)