S&P Warns of Challenges Facing Japan
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
S&P Warns of Challenges Facing Japan
There are, said to be, two schools of thoughts in forming a cabinet by a Prime Minister in Japan under the parliamentary cabinet system. One is to assign the ministerial and other major posts to those who are close in their political beliefs and theories with the PM, and the other is to assign the posts in accordance with their often implicit political powers in the ruling party where the PM belongs - and its partners when a coalition is formed.
The former approach, more vividly seen in countries with presidential systems such as the U.S., would in effect provide stronger leadership for the PM, enabling the government to pursue its political agenda swiftly and strongly. The latter, on the other hand, seeks the stability of the government, by allowing the various political views offered by political strongmen to be incorporated into the policies of the government, but with the risk of controversial - often important - issues, to go astray.
In practice, a mix, or in-between, of these two thoughts are realized. In the case of the new PM Mr Abe, the general impression is that the new team formed would allow for strong leadership of Mr Abe.
Some interesting assignments may be as follows.
The top of the list is arguably Mr Aso, the only minister continued to maintain the same - or any, this time - post from the former Koizumi cabinet. Mr Aso's stance on diplomacy has been known to be very close to Mr Abe's, and as Mr Aso being one of the strongman in the party, - indicated by becoming the runner-up following Mr Abe in the election to choose the president of the LDP - diplomacy can be trusted as being fairly solid.
On the economics side, Finance Minister Koji Omi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari are well received in the business circles, where Mr Omi, at 73, is an established politician fully aware of the needs of the industry, and Mr Amari, at 57, has been a strong supporter of vitalizing the economy. This is one of the reasons, as being reported, that the stock market has been faring well. But this is also the reason some watchers fear the risk of adopting lax fiscal policy, as indicated in the article introduced above, further increasing Japan's already immense debt volume.
One of the two female ministers, Sanae Takaichi was assigned to the post with the longest title, i.e. State minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories, science and technology policy, innovation, declining birthrate issues, gender equality and food safety. Although relatively young, at 45, she is a conservative in the authentic sense of the term, and has already established her name in the political arena. She is expected to be playing larger roles into the future.
The other woman is not a diet member. Hiroko Ota, 52, is a scholar who has participated in many governmental committees to become the State minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy. Although her theories are highly acclaimed, her ability in maneuvering real politics to realize them is unknown - apparently to herself as well.
Education, which has been recognized as one of the areas Mr Abe is most concerned, was assigned to Bummei Ibuki, 68. As an established politician having his own thoughts, with full support of the PM, he is expected to bring about real results in this important but complicated field having serious flaws.
A number of poll results have already come out. Nikkei reports 71% support for the new government, and Yomiuri's study showed 70% support. Following Mr Koizumi's record when he first became the PM, at 80%, the support for Mr Abe is among the highest in the post-war era, where most of the new PM's have recorded only 30-40%.
It seems Mr Abe made a good start. Let us see how he actually performs.