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Japan's new Cabinet gets down to business

Publication Date : 03-10-2012

 

The new Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda got down to business Tuesday as newly appointed ministers took over from their predecessors at a time when opposition parties are poised to step up their demands that an election be held soon.

The new Cabinet's many tasks include ensuring a bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds passes the Diet. The reshuffled lineup will face a stormy welcome from the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, which are demanding an early dissolution of the House of Representatives and are poised to up the ante toward the government and the ruling parties.

At the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, newly appointed Makiko Tanaka took over from Hirofumi Hirano.

"The education minister has a heavy responsibility, but, basically, the job is to develop human resources," Tanaka said. "Certainly, [my work] will involve system [reform], and also how I can help create a spirit among Japanese people that will be understood well and respected by the world."

Tanaka then made a speech to ministry employees. "I won't pick fights with bureaucrats," said the outspoken Tanaka, who clashed with bureaucrats when she was foreign minister more than a decade ago. "I hope you'll support me in a forward-looking and cheerful manner."

At the Finance Ministry, outgoing minister Jun Azumi told his successor, Koriki Jojima, "There's much homework still to be done, but please take care of it."

Jojima replied, "I'll take over your responsibilities and do my best."

Azumi is positive toward accepting the LDP's proposal to cut the fiscal 2012 budget, which the main opposition party set as a condition for supporting the bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds. The government and the Democratic Party of Japan are expected to start coordinating views on the matter soon.

Deficit-covering bond bill priority

At a press conference Monday, Noda expressed his determination to pass a bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds, and will propose holding a meeting with the LDP and Komeito leaders.

However, Noda indicated he will not specify the timing of the lower house dissolution during the planned meeting. The LDP and Komeito have demanded Noda name a date for the dissolution.

Noda has almost no prospect of getting the cooperation of the LDP and Komeito on pending issues, so the extraordinary Diet session, which is expected to be convened this month, will likely be bumpy.

Noda said tasks to be tackled included:

-- Diet passage of a bill to issue deficit-covering bonds.

-- Quickly establishing a national council for revamping the social security system.

-- Reforming of the lower house election system, including correcting the disparity in the value of votes and reducing the number of lower house seats.

Noda said the government and the ruling parties will jointly work on these issues.

Referring to the bill to issue deficit-covering bonds, Noda said, "If nothing is done, there'll be no money in the government's wallet, the state's functions will be restricted, and people's daily lives will unavoidably be adversely affected."

Noda said he will ask the LDP and Komeito leaders to work with the DPJ on the three issues at the proposed meeting and decide on the timing of the lower house dissolution after taking their response into account. "I won't mention the timing of the dissolution during the meeting," Noda added.

LDP President Shinzo Abe and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi will likely demand Noda specify the date of the dissolution during the meeting. In August, Noda promised to seek a mandate from the public "sometime soon".

It therefore appears the DPJ will struggle to find common ground on the matter with the LDP and Komeito.

Noda said the date of the leaders' meeting was still undecided, but he indicated it could be held next week after he finishes appointing DPJ executives this weekend.

Noda also said Monday's Cabinet reshuffle was designed to "to deepen cooperation between the government and the ruling parties, and to strengthen the Cabinet's functions to address a mountain of tasks at home and abroad."

 

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