A regular session of the Diet was convened in Japan on Jan. 17, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivered his first policy speech since assuming office. What kinds of policies, with what line of thought, will the government advance in the year to come? Kishida was in a position to present his plans to the public.
The prime minister, however, merely listed items for future consideration. Over 100 days have passed since the inauguration of the Kishida administration, and people should be expecting concrete policies from the prime minister.
Particularly lacking in substance was Kishida's cherished "new capitalism" idea. He even said that Japan would "lead global movements" through this idea. But in contrast with such enthusiasm, he spent much time explaining conventional growth strategies, and the distribution policies that he was expected to focus on became further overshadowed.
While stating, "We will confront the problems of distribution and disparity head-on, leading to the next stage of growth," what stood out were his hopes that private companies would raise wages. One could even say that he exposed the true state of affairs of not having found an effective government policy.
The prime minister said he would put together a grand design and action plan for his new capitalism by this spring, but without progress, it's possible he will just end up playing word games.
This is not the only issue over which concrete policies have been put off. Kishida says that after summarizing the government's response to the coronavirus to date, his administration will aim for a date of June to compile intermediate-term countermeasures, such as boosting control-tower functions. He did not even indicate when the government would put together an energy policy toward decarbonization.
Furthermore, when it came to the problem of six recommended candidates being rejected as members of the Science Council of Japan in 2020 under the administration of his predecessor Yoshihide Suga, he did not even mention the issue. Does he think that the matter has been settled?
Japan is heading for a House of Councillors election in July, but looking at the first day of Diet proceedings, it appears that the Diet -- both in the ruling and opposition camps -- lacks a proper sense of tension.
The government and ruling coalition have quickly laid out plans to shelve the submission of bills stirring controversy with opposition parties during the current Diet session. The administration probably thinks that if it avoids intense debate and gets through the Diet session unscathed, then it will also be able to make it through the upper house election.
But with the coronavirus's omicron variant now spreading rapidly in Japan, the Kishida administration will not earn public sympathy by taking a defensive approach alone.
If the prime minister is going to proudly "create a new Japan," then he needs the mettle to initiate debate himself.