Kishida Cabinet at 2 Years: Tangible Results Must be Produced in Order to Restore Public’s Faith

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is presently in a difficult situation, with personnel reshuffles aimed at boosting the administration failing to achieve desired results. To restore the public’s faith, the Kishida administration must produce results through policy issues.

Kishida marked two years in office on Oct. 4. The Cabinet approval rating has plummeted due to a spate of mistakes in which My Number identification cards were linked to other people’s personal information, and for three consecutive months from July has been at a low level of 35%.

The government intends to complete a comprehensive review of the information linked to the My Number cards by the end of November and take measures to prevent a recurrence. If the confusion is not brought under control by then, managing the administration will become even more difficult.

The prime minister’s efforts to support Ukraine and strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities amid the tense international situation can be said to be an achievement of the past two years. His decision to release into the ocean treated water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., which was a long-standing issue, is also reasonable.

There are many issues, however, that have been postponed. By the end of the year, it will be necessary to settle on measures to secure financial resources to deal with the low birth rate and increase defense spending.

Kishida intends to secure an additional annual budget in the mid-¥3 trillion range for measures to deal with the low birth rate, but the path ahead is unclear.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, a high percentage of respondents favored measures such as extending the use of day care centers and encouraging male employees to take childcare leave, rather than the cash benefits on which the government has put emphasis.

Unless measures are acceptable to the public, they are unlikely to have the effect of boosting the number of births. To encourage marriage and childbirth, the government and businesses must work together to eliminate economic uncertainty by increasing wages in a sustained manner and providing quality housing, among other steps.

It is hoped that comprehensive measures will be taken based on a detailed strategy and with a clear prioritization of initiatives.

House of Representatives members will reach the halfway point of their four-year term at the end of October this year. It would not be surprising if the dissolution of the lower house were to occur anytime now, but Kishida’s behavior of repeatedly hinting at using his right to dissolve the lower house is questionable.

Kishida had not clearly stated the timing of the submission of a fiscal 2023 supplementary budget proposal until very recently. As a result, speculation had been rife among ruling and opposition parties regarding the possibility of the lower house being dissolved at the beginning of the extraordinary Diet session to be convened Oct. 20.

Near the end of the ordinary Diet session in June, Kishida showed a speculative attitude regarding the timing of any dissolution, stating that he would “carefully assess the situation.” Two days later, he made it clear that there would be no dissolution at the end of that session.

This may have been intended to put pressure on the opposition parties, which were not fully prepared for a snap election stemming from a lower house dissolution. However, if speculation about the lower house being dissolved is in the air, not only Diet members but also the bureaucrats in charge of policy planning will turn their attention to the political situation, which may stall discussion of policies that Kishida himself has set forth. The prime minister should be more careful with his words and actions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2023)