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Sunday, October 10, 2021
Kishida calls for new economic approach in first policy speech
SATOSHI SUGIYAMA

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Oct 8 vowed to transform the Japanese economy by implementing a "new model of capitalism" — identifying growth and the distribution of wealth as "mutually necessary" — while also promising to expand the middle class.

In his first speech to the national legislature after assuming the Prime Minister's Office on Monday, the nation's 100th prime minister said he will continue to push for Japan to emerge from deflation and identified the "three arrows" from economic plans developed under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — aggressive monetary policy, fiscal consolidation and growth strategy — as his administration's overall macroeconomic policy management.

He also promised massive investments in science and technology and attempted to engage with the public by sharing personal anecdotes and reflections on the pandemic.

During the roughly 40-minute speech in the lower chamber of the Diet, opposition lawmakers relentlessly jeered the new leader to the point where, at times, the audience struggled to hear Kishida. Opposition lawmakers also hissed when Kishida stressed the importance of dialogue, likely due to the prime minister's unwillingness to hold a budget committee meeting, where they would be given an opportunity to grill him and his Cabinet members in a quasi-debate. The opposition has also criticized his proposal to establish a committee to discuss economic policies, calling it "too broad."

Kishida, however, maintained his composure and rattled off his pre-written speech in a loud voice, although toward the end his voice sounded hollow and he misread a word. The ruling party lawmakers screamed in approval and applauded when he argued for a ban on nuclear weapons.

Here are some of the policy areas that Kishida touched on in the speech:

Economy

Despite his allusions to the Abenomics policy mix, Kishida noted that the neoliberal policies that Japan has embraced have created a division between the rich and the poor. The world, he noted, is shifting toward protecting the middle class and embracing massive spending both by governments and the private sector in preparation for crises such as climate change.

"What's important is creating a positive cycle of growth and distribution," Kishida said. "We'll implement various policies to achieve both."

Kishida has called for founding a roughly $10-trillion fund to bolster research at universities as well as massive investments to develop cutting-edge technology in areas such as the digital sphere, the environment, artificial intelligence and space exploration. In addition, Kishida promised to modernize digital infrastructure in rural areas and facilitate the installation of 5G networks.

At the same time, Kishida pushed for tax benefits for companies that raise wages, further support for education and housing costs for families with young children and efforts to increase wages for nurses and nursing care and child care workers. A new council dedicated to hammering out the specifics of these plans will be created, but the prime minister did not provide specifics on funding for these programs.

THE JAPAN TIMES
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