Kishida must clarify policy goals and produce tangible results

The stage of postponing policy issues and playing it safe has passed. From now on, the new Cabinet needs to steadily produce tangible results.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s second Cabinet was launched after he reshuffled his Cabinet posts. He retained five Cabinet members, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, while replacing 14 ministers, nine of them first-timers.

The new lineup is apparently aimed at not only maintaining the backbone of the administration to ensure stable management, but also at promoting the revamped administration. It is noteworthy that five lawmakers who have held cabinet posts before, including Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, have been placed in key positions and preparations have been in place to promote policies.

Kishida was initially coordinating a personnel reshuffle for early September, but moved it forward.

In the wake of the murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there has been a spate of revelations about Cabinet members’ involvement with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification — widely known as the Unification Church — whose so-called “spiritual sales” tactic has become a social problem. As a result, the Cabinet’s approval rating dropped.

Kishida is believed to have attempted to break through the situation by replacing Cabinet members who had links to the Unification Church.

At a press conference, Kishida said, “To overcome the difficult situation, I have launched a Cabinet with experienced and able ministers.”

The number of novel coronavirus cases remains high. Higher prices of food and other products and soaring energy prices are having a serious impact on companies and households. China has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan. The security environment surrounding Japan has deteriorated further.

Although the government has policy themes and human resources in place, no specific measures on how to deal with each of these issues are in sight.

There will be no major national elections for the time being, so the environment should be ripe for the government to sit down and tackle policy issues. Kishida also needs to take on such difficult challenges as fiscal consolidation and social security system reform.

The government has so far put off the handling of controversial policies, such as a revision of the Infectious Diseases Control Law so as to strengthen administrative powers. If the government continues to fail to produce tangible results, public support will likely wane.

It is essential to expand and improve medical services and testing systems to deal with the coronavirus. It is hoped that Katsunobu Kato, who is serving as health minister for the third time, will learn from the lessons of past delays in implementing necessary measures.

The government plans to revise three documents, including the National Security Strategy, by the end of the year. It is important for Defense Minister Hamada to look at the threats posed in and around Japan and compile specific measures to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities.

In the Cabinet reshuffle and the changes in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s executive posts, Kishida appointed as the party’s Policy Research Council head Koichi Hagiuda, who was the economy, trade and industry minister and a close ally of Abe, out of consideration for the Abe faction, the largest, and more conservative forces within the party. Hiroshi Moriyama, executive acting chairperson of the party’s General Council, who leads a nonmainstream faction, was appointed as chairperson of the party’s Election Strategy Committee.

It is hoped that Kishida will unite the LDP to ensure the implementation of policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2022)