Last week on January 28-30, there were interpellations in both Houses
of the Diet with regard to four government speeches including Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe’s general policy speech.
*The state of deliberations in both Houses and committees are
available from the following websites.can be seen.
House of Representatives Internet TV：http://www.shugiintv.go.jp/en/index.php
Live broadcasts and video recordings of the deliberations in the
House of Councillors (Japanese only)：http://www.webtv.sangiin.go.jp/
During the session, Banri Kaieda, representative of opposition
Democratic Party of Japan, took a confrontational attitude by throwing
doubts on the risks caused by policies initiated by the Cabinet such
as (1) widening income gaps caused by Abenomics, (2) deteriorating
relations with China and South Korea, and (3) conservative-colored
legislation such as special intelligence protection bill.
Kaieda criticized negative impacts of Abe’s economic policies dubbed
“Abenomics” and requested to tackle with issues such as raising
wages overcoming increased prices and correcting income gaps. Prime
Minister Abe, given the comments, stressed the positive
accomplishments of Abenomics and gave critical comments on the
economic policies introduced under the DPJ administration in the past.
Kaieda also criticized Abe’s diplomatic attitude that worsened the
relations with China and South Korea due to Abe’s visit to Yasukuni
Shrine late last year and that hasn’t realized a summit meeting. In
response Abe stressed significance of the concept of “proactive
contribution to peace” and showed again his decisiveness toward
lifting Japan’s self-imposing ban on exercising the right to
collective self-defense by reviewing interpretation of the pacifist
Constitution. Kaieda also opposed to the special intelligence
protection legislation pushed through the last extraordinary session
and stressed significance of two bills submitted by DPJ to amend the
information disclosure act.
On monetary policy, Abe stated his expectation that the Bank of Japan
would firmly continue the relaxing policy to achieve the 2% price
target, as well as that he does not exclude an idea to revise the BOJ
Act to expand government’s interventions with BOJ’s monetary policy.
On the consumption tax that is to be hiked in April, Abe explained
that measures have been taken to prevent corporations from shifting
the burdens onto small- and medium-sized enterprises.
While Abe maintained a high-handed manner against the confrontational
DPJ, his remarks have been softer with regard to Your Party or Japan
Restoration Party to which the ruling parties have called for
consultative negotiations. Still, as there have emerged oppositions
against Abe’s attitude placing importance on strategic dialogue with
the opposition parties among the ruling coalition, Abe avoided further
comments on dialogue with the oppositions. In particular, the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party hasn’t obtained consents of its coalition
partner New Komeito on issues of Board of Education, interpretation of
Constitution over the right to exercise collective self-defense, and
relooking of the Three Discipline on Arm Exports, etc. For this reason
LDP and Komeito held a meeting of Director-General and Chairman of
Diet Affairs Committee on January 29 and reaffirmed the conventional
policy to reach an agreement among the Cabinet and ruling parties and
then to obtain consents of the opposition camp.
On January 30, the lawmakers entered discussions on the 5.46 trillion
yen of supplementary budget that gives financial backgrounds to the
economic stimulus package. Discussions took place in the Lower House
Budget Committee on January 31 and February 3. During the discussion,
Prime Minister Abe expressed his idea to conduct a corporate tax
reduction. Nevertheless, Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister
of Finance, as well as Koumura, Vice President of LDP and Advisor to
LDP’s Council on Tax Reform, have shown cautious views on the
corporate tax reduction in an earlier stage.
On February 4, after intensive discussions in the Lower House Budget
Committee with presence of Prime Minister and relevant ministers, the
voting on the supplementary budget was held and the budget was passed
through the Committee and plenary session of the Lower House.
Accordingly, the budget was sent to the Upper House, where discussions
start on February 5 and the voting will be held on February 6.
On the supplementary budget, DPJ, JRP, Japan Communist Party and
Social Democratic Party have announced to vote against its legislation.
Although the oppositions had sought a joint struggle against the
budget, the idea was given up in a meeting on January 30 for
inadequate time for coordination. In the meeting of secretary-generals
on February 4, eight parties confirmed to continue requesting the
ruling parties to secure time and opportunities for discussions on
bills submitted by the opposition camp. They also reaffirmed to seek a
joint struggle over the initial budget FY 2014.