Criticism of Possible Raises for Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Cabinet Members Could Mean Amounts Will Be Voluntarily Returned to Public Coffers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions from reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Thursday.

Growing criticism of draft legislation that would raise the salaries of public servants including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet members has the government scrambling to appease the critics.

Arrangements are being made to have the prime minister, cabinet ministers and those in three highest ranks in each ministry or agency to voluntarily return the increased amount to public coffers.

Opposition parties have been increasingly critical of the draft bill to revise the law on salaries of national public servants, amid inflation affecting the general public.

The Cabinet Committee of the House of Representatives launched discussions on the draft bill on Wednesday.

Along with salary hikes for national public servants in regular positions, the draft calls for a raise to the annual salary for special service positions, increasing by ¥460,000 for the prime minister and adding ¥320,000 for cabinet ministers, along with pay hikes for the commissioners of the Board of Audit and the National Personnel Authority.

“It is appropriate to continue revising salaries in line with the private sector in order not to stop the trend of wage increases,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a regular press conference the same day.

Since 2014, as part of the promotion of administrative and fiscal reform, prime ministers had voluntarily returned 30% of their salary and cabinet ministers had done the same for 20% of their salaries. Following suit, Matsuno had previously explained that the prime minister would return ¥12.18 million year.

With calls for a review of the draft bill growing even within Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito, however, the government has decided to make adjustments. Adding the entire increased portion will make Kishida’s voluntary return higher.

“Diet members will freeze their pay raises,” Komeito policy chief Yosuke Takagi said at a press conference the same day. “It should be appropriate to think that the prime minister and cabinet ministers will do so as well.”

That day Tsuyoshi Takagi, chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, met with Jun Azumi, his counterpart of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

“Some kind of action needs to be taken,” Tsuyoshi Takagi said.

“At a time when the priority should be given on raising wages for the general public, it is completely the opposite order of things to start doing so with the prime minister and cabinet ministers,” CDPJ President Kenta Izumi said Wednesday to reporters in Minami-Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture. “If they have sense similar to the general public’s, the draft bill should be withdrawn.”

The CDPJ decided on the same day to submit to the Diet an amendment to the legislation to freeze the salary increase for the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

Takashi Endo, Diet affairs chief of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), held talks the same day with Akihiro Nishimura, acting chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, and called for Kishida and his Cabinet ministers to be excluded from the raises.