Kishida faces major task of fleshing out handout pledge

For Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, fleshing out his policy pledge to provide handouts to people affected by the novel coronavirus crisis is the first hurdle he needs to clear to get his administration on track.

Kishida dissolved the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, only 10 days after he took office on Oct. 4 — the shortest such period in postwar history.

The prime minister is now getting down to the mounting tasks facing him: from pandemic countermeasures to diplomacy.

One month into office on Thursday, Kishida told reporters that his government will implement policies quickly, after his mandate was confirmed during the Oct. 31 election for the House of Representatives.

Kishida positioned handouts for citizens at the center of a large economic package that his administration will prepare in mid-November.

But members of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, especially those who prioritize fiscal discipline, continue to question such distributive policies.

The party therefore did not offer big promises in its manifesto for the general election. Instead it pledges to provide “financial support for nonregular workers, women, families with children and students.”

However, during the election campaign, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, Komeito, proposed a blanket handout of ¥100,000 per person for children under 19 years old. The party also pledged to give reward points worth ¥30,000 per head to holders of the My Number social security and taxation identification card.

The two parties may oppose each other on the issue, and Kishida’s management will be tested.

In April last year, the government decided at a Cabinet meeting to provide a benefit of ¥300,000 to households suffering financially from the coronavirus crisis.

Kishida, who was policy chief of the LDP at the time, boasted about this accomplishment.

But then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed suddenly course son the urging of Komeito, switching to a blanket 100,000-yen handout — a decision that made Kishida lose face.

Handouts were a key policy in Komeito’s manifesto for the general election, and the party says the issue is non-negotiable.

Yuzuru Takeuchi, policy chief of Komeito, said on Twitter that the blanket handout for children will be provided in cash. “We’ll realize it 100%,” he said.

Among other policy challenges, the Kishida administration has to come up with an overview of COVID-19 countermeasures in the first half of this month.

Kishida has promised to ensure by the end of November that all people who need to receive treatment in the hospital can be hospitalized, and he also needs to work on his pledge to make oral COVID-19 drugs available by year-end.

On diplomacy, the prime minister faces difficult tasks, including revising the national security strategy, focusing on the issue of Japan possessing the ability to attack enemy bases.

Kishida needs achievements to win public trust by next summer before the triennial election for the House of Councillors, Japan’s upper chamber.

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