PM Kishida replaces economic revitalization minster over Unification Church links

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shigeyuki Goto

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday appointed Shigeyuki Goto, who served as the health, labor and welfare minister in his first Cabinet, as economic revitalization minister.

Goto, 66, took office Tuesday evening after a certification ceremony at the Imperial Palace.

Goto replaced Daishiro Yamagiwa, 54, who resigned Monday to take responsibility after revelations about his relationship with the religious group commonly known as the Unification Church.

The group is officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Explaining why he had appointed Goto, Kishida told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday morning, “I valued his wealth of political experience, his ability to explain and his passion for economic and social change.”

Kishida is believed to have also placed importance on the fact that no relationship has been confirmed between Goto and the Unification Church, and that he does not get flustered when responding to questions in the Diet. Kishida is also believed to have taken account of the need for continuity in measures against the novel coronavirus — which Goto, as health minister, worked on with Yamagiwa when responding to the seventh wave of the pandemic.

“The government is in a very difficult situation in managing the economy, including measures to deal with prices and the weak yen. We must resolutely implement measures to protect the lives of the people,” Goto told reporters in the Diet on Tuesday morning.

Goto, who formerly worked at the Finance Ministry, has been elected to the House of Representatives from the Nagano No. 4 Constituency seven times. He served as acting chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council when Kishida was the chief of the council.

Goto does not belong to any intraparty faction, and his first cabinet position came in October last year when the first Kishida Cabinet was launched, before he was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle in August this year.

In addition to the compilation of a comprehensive economic package to deal with soaring prices and other problems, Yamagiwa was in charge of Kishida’s “new form of capitalism,” as well as measures to combat the novel coronavirus and prepare “social security for all generations” reform that will review the structure of burdens and benefits for elderly people and working generations, among other issues.

Kishida is believed to have sought a successor to Yamagiwa from among former cabinet ministers in order to minimize the impact on managing the government and handling of parliamentary affairs.

Kishida is believed to have judged that Goto’s experience has made him well-versed in pandemic measures and economic policy, meaning he is the right person for the post when there are fears that an eighth wave of the pandemic could coincide with an outbreak of seasonal flu.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Tuesday morning the appointment was due to be made in a prompt manner so as not to delay the policies Yamagiwa was in charge of. Matsuno also said the government will compile a comprehensive economic package by the end of the month as planned.