Arab News Japan
TOKYO: Yoshihide Suga gave the public a taste of how he plans to focus his energies in his new role as prime minister of Japan in a speech on Wednesday, following his election to the role the day before by the country’s parliament.
Suga began his speech by expressing his condolences and sympathy to the people affected by the pandemic and the natural disasters that have hit Japan in recent months. He emphasized that Japan must stay alert regarding the response to COVID-19, which he called the “biggest challenge we have to tackle.”
Suga, who is expected to largely follow the policies of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, served as chief cabinet secretary under Abe and mentioned how he has helped Japan deal with the challenges of the pandemic and the worst economic fallout since after World War II.
“We have to provide a sense of security, peace of mind and safe livelihoods to the people of Japan,” he said. “The initiatives of the Abe Administration have to be inherited and we have to vigorously move them forward.”
He said that while Japan must prevent the virus from spreading like it has in Western countries, it simultaneously needs to manage economic activities. To handle the pandemic, he said that it is necessary to secure testing capacity and medical services, in addition to vaccination capacity by the first half of next year.
As for the economic situation brought on by the virus, Suga said that jobs and businesses must be protected through relief packages and measures like zero-interest loans and the Go-To campaign encouraging domestic tourism.
He stressed that while the financial market has been quite stable despite COVID-19 and that Japan’s job situation has fared very well, the country must make necessary investments during the crisis so that it can jumpstart its economy after the pandemic.
As for changes highlighted by the pandemic, he said that online medical treatment must be continued and discussed the digitalization of government services to allow people to do administrative procedures online. He also brought up moving toward a carbon-free society and the stable supply of energy sources.
Mentioning that he was from a farming family in Akita Prefecture, Suga also expressed his determination to revitalize the country’s rural areas and highlighted his past contributions to that area, especially by coming up with the hometown tax contribution system.
“I saw the objection from bureaucrats in Japan,” he said. “But I made up my mind to introduce such a system in Japan.”
Suga also talked about measures aimed at supporting children and families, such as one-year paternity leave for public employees, enhancing the nursery school systems and the accessibility of fertility treatment.
“Female workers have to play an important role in the society,” he said. “Such an environment has to be securely and surely established.”
Regarding international diplomacy, Suga said that Japan is facing a tough situation and that based on the Japan-US alliance, measures toward a free and open Indo-Pacific must be moved ahead, and also that relations with neighboring China and Russia should be addressed.
Other issues he brought up in his speech included the problem of abductees to North Korea, which he said he planned to make strong efforts to resolve, and the monopolization of the mobile phone industry.
“We have to listen to the people’s voices to consider what is really right and to execute the right policies,” he said. “This is what I’d like to really carry forth.”
Outlining his vision for society, Suga said he believes people must support themselves, support each other, and then rely on public support.
“I’d like to create a cabinet that works really hard for people. And by doing so I’d like to live up to the expectations of the people and I’d like to have your cooperation in advance,” he concluded.