Kishida Addresses Funds Scandal in Policy Speech; Japan’s Prime Minister Also Touches on Earthquake Relief

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers his policy speech at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.

The Noto Peninsula Earthquake and the political funds scandal were among topics addressed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in his policy speeches at plenary sessions of each house of the Diet on Tuesday afternoon.

The prime minister expressed his intention to establish a “Noto Peninsula Earthquake restoration and recovery support headquarters,” which he will head, in order to deal with the quake damage.

In response to the scandal over alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law by factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida also stated that “political stability cannot be achieved without the trust of the people” and that he intends to ensure the transparency of the handling of political funds through such measures as the revision of the law.

At the start of his speeches, Kishida addressed the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, which occurred nearly one month ago, expressing his “determination to work responsibly until the affected areas are rebuilt.”

Regarding the doubling of reserve funds from ¥500 billion to ¥1 trillion in the fiscal 2024 budget plan to secure a budget for recovery and reconstruction, Kishida asked for understanding, saying, “We must not hesitate to respond to the disaster due to budget constraints.”

Concerning the political funds scandal, Kishida said, “It is extremely regrettable, and I sincerely apologize.”

Kishida positioned the interim plan of the LDP’s political reform headquarters, which was decided on Jan. 25, as “the first step toward restoring public trust,” and explained a policy to embody the content of the legislation through consultations between the ruling and opposition parties.

Kishida emphasized that the factions will be completely separated from “money” and “personnel appointments for party executive and cabinet posts” and will be reborn as policy groups in the true sense.

On the economy, Kishida said, “The biggest mission of the administration is to ‘revive the economy.’”

He envisioned a scenario to achieve wage hikes in this year’s shunto spring wage negotiations and increase disposable income by implementing fixed-amount cuts for taxes, including the income tax, so that the economy will completely break free from deflation.

“We will make every possible measure to achieve an income increase that exceeds the rise in prices this year,” Kishida clearly said.

On foreign policy, mentioning that he will visit the United States in April as a state guest, Kishida said that he will “further expand and deepen the Japan-U.S. relationship, which is the axis of our nation’s foreign policy.”

In addition to his response to international affairs, he cited the need to deal with the earthquake and to completely break free from deflation, making clear his awareness that “we have reached a critical moment.”

On constitutional revision, Kishida said he continues to aim for constitutional revision by the expiration of his current term as LDP president in September, and added that he will proceed to concretize the draft articles and accelerate discussions across party lines.

Kishida also reiterated his intention to hold the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo as planned, saying that the government will proceed with the event “with efforts of the entire nation.”

It is customary for top government officials to deliver four kinds of government speeches, including policy speeches, on the day when an ordinary Diet session is convened. However, in the current Diet session convened on Jan. 26, due to the political funds scandal, the intensive deliberations of the budget committees of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors were held on Monday ahead of the policy speeches.

Representatives of each party will ask questions about the policy speech delivered by Kishida in each house of the Diet from Wednesday to Friday.