TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio Wednesday pledged to provide financial assistance to students and other people struggling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic as he launched his second cabinet following late last month’s general election.
Earlier in the day, Kishida was re-elected to the top government post during a special session of parliament convened after the Oct. 31 election for the House of Representatives, its lower chamber.
The Kishida administration is now getting down to mounting tasks including bracing for a possible sixth COVID-19 wave and recovering the country’s economy from the pandemic’s fallout.
The government and the ruling coalition aim to pass a supplementary budget to finance a planned economic package during an extraordinary parliamentary session expected to start in early December.
Kishida took office on Oct. 4 and won a fresh mandate from the public in the Lower House election.
Speaking at a press conference after launching his new cabinet, Kishida said the government will provide 100,000 yen in emergency aid to students facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.
The aid will be included in the economic package, due on Nov. 19, which will also include 100,000 yen in benefits to people aged 18 years and under, Kishida said.
Referring to the government’s pandemic response, he said the country will start administering a third vaccine shot in December. “All people aged 18 years and above who want to receive it will be eligible,” Kishida said.
He also said that COVID-19 testing will be offered to people without symptoms free of charge during a surge in infections.
The prime minister said that the government will review its pandemic response to compile measures to beef up the country’s crisis management over infectious diseases by June.
Kishida said that the government will provide aid to agriculture and other industries hit hard by soaring gasoline prices.
Subsidies to municipalities will be expanded to promote his push to create a virtuous cycle of economic growth and wealth redistribution, Kishida said.
He also said the government will submit a bill early next year to enable delivery services using self-driving vehicles.
For his second cabinet, Kishida appointed former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as foreign minister, while reappointing all other ministers.
Hayashi took the post after his predecessor, Toshimitsu Motegi, quit to become secretary-general of Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
LDP lawmaker Hiroyuki Hosoda was elected Lower House speaker, and Banri Kaieda of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was chosen as vice speaker.