Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged on Friday to establish a “new capitalism” to put the world’s third-largest economy on a path to growth and redistribute the fruits of that success to build a stronger middle class in its first. political discourse since taking office. .
Addressing the lower house of parliament, he also promised to strengthen the government’s response to COVID-19 while developing plans for a thorough review of the security strategy and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of an increasingly assertive China and missile threats. from North Korea.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses the House of Representatives in Tokyo’s parliament on October 8, 2021, delivering his first political speech since taking office. (Kyodo)
“Only when we properly distribute the fruits of growth can we achieve more growth,” Kishida said, arguing that neoliberal policies had created a “deep gap between the haves and the have-nots.”
As part of his strategy to boost economic growth, the prime minister said his government would invest in cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence and seek legislation to prevent the leak of technology to foreign competitors.
Kishida also said Japan would encourage drastic monetary easing and fiscal spending to stave off deflation, as former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga have done.
But Kishida’s comments on redistribution appeared aimed at responding to criticism that “Abenomics” had boosted corporate profits and stock prices, but the benefits had failed to trickle down to the middle class.
Kishida, who took office on Monday after being named leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, promised to introduce tax incentives for companies that raise wages.
The speech was essentially a list of LDP campaign promises for the upcoming general election. The prime minister is expected to dissolve the House of Representatives next Thursday for a vote on Oct. 31, seeking to take advantage of a lull in COVID-19 affairs and leaving the opposition scrambling to organise.
On COVID-19, Kishida warned against complacency after the lifting of the state of emergency and progress in vaccination, pledging to prepare medical reminders and treatments as well as legislation to allow the government to more easily impose movement restrictions and secure medical resources when future waves of infections occur.
“The key to crisis management is to always be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Kishida said, adding that cash assistance will be available for businesses hit hard by the pandemic, as well as people in need such as than those without regular employment or raising children.
Throughout the speech, he stressed the importance of communication and building trust, whether with the public or with other countries, seemingly an acknowledgment of the poor articulation of policy that ultimately forced his predecessor Suga to step down after just over a year in power.
Quoting an African proverb – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” – Kishida argued for building “a caring and warm society based on human bonds “.
Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called the speech “full of pretty words but lacking in substance”.
“There wasn’t a word about giving married couples the option to use separate last names or LGBTQ issues,” he told reporters.
On foreign policy, Kishida pledged to work with partners, including other members of the so-called Quad – Australia, India and the United States – to achieve an Indo- Free and Open Pacific, a venture that comes amidst China’s economic growth. influence and military reinforcement.
Maintaining stable relations between Japan and China is important for the region and the international community as a whole, but Japan will cooperate with like-minded countries to ‘say what needs to be said’, PM says .
In order to counter threats, including North Korea’s recent resumption of ballistic missile testing, the government will revise its National Security Strategy, developed in 2013 under Abe, as well as the National Defense Program Guidelines and Defense Program in the medium term, he said.
Kishida also reiterated that he was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without preconditions” to resolve the issue of the country’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
Regarding Russia, the Prime Minister said there could be no signing of a post-war peace treaty without first resolving a decades-long territorial dispute, and that he wanted to establish a relationship with President Vladimir Putin to move the negotiations forward.
Kishida, who comes from a political family in Hiroshima, said that as the only country to be hit by an atomic bomb during wartime, Japan will serve as a bridge between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states to work towards “a world without nuclear weapons.”
On the constitutional review, he said he expected constructive debate in parliament and more public discussion on the way forward.
The LDP proposed a series of four amendments, including adding a reference to the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9 renouncing war in order to legitimize their existence and give the Cabinet the ability to exercise powers urgently during national crises.
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