Kishida’s Policy Speeches: Lack of New Initiatives A Cause for Concern

All the topics addressed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are important. They remind us again how difficult the tasks that Japan is facing are. However, it is regrettable that new initiatives are lacking in measures to deal with these issues.

Kishida delivered his policy speeches at the plenary sessions of each house of the Diet, saying, “We will take every possible measure to achieve income growth that exceeds the rise in prices.”

To break away from deflation, Kishida emphasized the government’s policy to encourage wage increases in the medical and welfare sectors by raising public prices, such as medical service fees. He also underlined the policy to expand the tax system to promote wage increases by reducing the corporate tax for companies that increase salaries and other benefits.

The wage-increase promotion tax system was established in fiscal 2013. However, as many small and midsize enterprises are in the red and pay no corporate tax, utilization of this tax system has not spread.

If companies managed to raise wages but did not receive the corporate tax deduction because they fell into the red, the government intends to allow them to carry over the amounts of the tax reduction over the following five years. The government must strive to determine whether wage increases actually do spread among small and midsize enterprises.

Kishida has made population decline his “biggest strategic issue.” However, his measures to deal with it remained merely an extension of existing policies, such as expanding child allowances and reducing the cost burden for higher education.

While it is understandable that the prime minister aims to financially support households that are raising children, can simply throwing money around overcome the declining birth rate, which is seen as a national crisis?

It is important to build a system in which society as a whole can support child-rearing by promoting the conversion of non-regular employees into regular employees, and by providing quality housing.

This year, both the United States and Russia will hold presidential elections, and the international situation could change drastically. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been prolonged, and military conflicts in the Middle East also are unpredictable.

In his speeches, Kishida stated that “Japan will lead the international community toward global stability and prosperity with its unique approach,” but there appears to be no strategy for restoring international order.

It is vital for Japan to rouse international public opinion, taking advantage of its position as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council and its track record of continued peaceful diplomacy.

The threat of cyber-attacks is increasing, and the introduction of “active cyber defense,” which hacks into an enemy’s computer servers and renders its attacks harmless, is urgently needed. However, Kishida only stated that he would “accelerate consideration” in this regard, and does not intend to submit a bill for legislation to the current Diet session.

This is because surveilling communications, including online communications, has been cited as a possible violation of the secrecy of communications stipulated in the Constitution. However, the situation must not be allowed to go unaddressed. The government should rethink its interpretation of the top law and accelerate discussions in line with reality.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2024)