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Michio Ezaki

【#1099】Politicians Must Tackle Policy Challenges to Restore Public Confidence

Michio Ezaki / 2023.12.21 (Thu)

December 18, 2023

At a cabinet meeting in December last year, the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida thoroughly revised the National Security Strategy and other related documents, moving to obtain counterstrike capabilities to counter threats from China, Russia, North Korea and others, while deciding to raise total defense spending for the next five years to 43 trillion yen.

It is not widely known that the revised National Security Strategy has a new section titled “Reinforcing Mechanisms for the Protection of Japanese Nationals” and that preparations for evacuation in response to emergencies have already begun. On March 17, for example, the Kishida government and Okinawa Prefecture conducted a simulation, assuming the evacuation of about 120,000 residents on the Sakishima Islands (including Miyako, Ishigaki, Taketomi, Yonaguni and Tarama islands), which are close to Taiwan, to Kyushu prefectures in the event of a Taiwan contingency.

Based on the simulation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced on October 18 that the government would compile an evacuation plan for 120,000 residents on the Sakishima Islands during the next fiscal year.

However, media have reported little about the efforts, while focusing on scandals involving politicians.

Kishida swayed by media reports

Troublingly, Prime Minister Kishida himself seems to have been swayed by such media reports. Speaking on controversial management of fundraising parties by factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party at a press conference on December 13, Kishida pensively said, “It is extremely regrettable that political activities of each policy group and the LDP are under intense scrutiny and viewed by taxpayers as questionable.”

As the same time, he said, “We have to confirm the facts, make corrections based on them, and take appropriate actions. Once the facts are confirmed, politicians will be responsible for explaining them.”

In essence, Kishida expelled members of the faction led by late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the largest among LDP factions, from his cabinet and the LDP leadership as if they had committed grave crimes even though the facts have yet to be confirmed. Seeing such performance, most Japanese voters may have thought that some serious political corruptions must have been covered up. He needs to clarify whether there have been serious political corruptions or whether the Abe faction has merely failed to report kickbacks by custom.

Mounting issues: consumption tax cut, constitutional amendment, etc.

I would like Kishida and other LDP politicians to understand that “politics and money” is not the only issue voters are scrutinizing.

While Japan’s economy has been on an inflationary trend due to price hikes caused by soaring raw materials costs, wage increases have not caught up with price hikes. Various quarters have proposed that measures to boost disposable income, such as a consumption tax cut, especially the elimination of consumption tax on foodstuff, would be effective for making a breakthrough in the current situation. However, Kishida has refused to even discuss the consumption tax cut.

Discussions about the reform of the imperial family system based on traditions and constitutional amendment have also made little progress. The government should also make effort to publicize the extent to which Japan’s defense capabilities have been fundamentally strengthened to counter threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.

Kishida has expressed his strong determination to take leadership in restoring public confidence. However, areas in which public confidence should be restored should not be limited to the issue of politics and money.

Michio Ezaki is a member of the Planning Committee at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a visiting professor at Reitaku University.