The Cabinet held a meeting of the headquarter for Japan’s economic recovery and officially approved the “course of action of the growth strategy” to promote and accelerate the “third arrow” of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy dubbed “Abenomics” on Oct 1.
(1) Points in the “course of action for the growth strategy”
Abe had directed his Cabinet ministers to finalize the “course of action” of the growth strategy on Sept 2 prior to the next extraordinary Diet session scheduled on Oct 15. The government’s Industrial Competitiveness Council held intensive discussions and drafted a “course of action (tentative)”, and the Cabinet this time approved the course of action according to the document.
l Institutional foundation for regulatory and institutional reform: National Strategic Special Zones
l Promotion of private investment and industrial renewal: tax reform to promote investment in productivity and industrial reshuffle, promotion of monetary and capital market, etc.
l Labor/employment policy reform, college/university reform to enhance human resource capability
l Establishment of new markets as Japan’s growth engine via regulatory reform and market opining: Organization for Farmland Interim Management to mediate leasing of abandoned farmland, medical-care market reform, power industry reform, etc.
l Promotion/innovation of local economy and small- and middle-size corporations: meeting for local industrial competitiveness as local version of Industrial Competitiveness Council, promotion of new incorporation through partnership between municipal governments and private, etc.
*“Course of Action of the Growth Strategy” (Japanese only)
To tackle with these challenges, the Cabinet plans to submit the following bills in the next Diet session and seeks early passages of them.
² Bill to boost Industrial Competitiveness
² Bill on National Strategic Special Zones
² Bill on revision of the Company Act
² Bill on revision of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act
² Bill to secure safety of the Regenerative Medicine
² Bill on Power Industry Reform
² Bill to establish an Organization for Farmland Interim Management (tentative) and bill on agricultural/forestry/fishery renewable energy
(2) National Strategic Special Zones
Amongst them, the particular content (outline) of the National Strategic Special Zones, regarded as a breakthrough toward the country’s “bedrock” regulations, is as follows.
I. Accelerate the structural reforms by threefold strategy of “strategic regional” “corporate” and “national” levels.
① Strategic regional level: to promote drastic regulatory/institutional reforms in the fields of medical care, agriculture, education, city planning, etc., in the designated National Strategic Special Zones
Items of regulatory reforms
Ø Relooking of land-use regulations such as floor-area-ratio restriction and purposes
Ø Admission of public schools to be managed by private organizations
Ø Establishment of international medical center, relaxation of its bed-number regulation
Ø Expansion of medical treatment not covered by the public medical insurance
Ø Exceptional measures on use of buildings for accommodations
Ø Institutional design to boost the agricultural competitiveness
② Corporate level: “exceptional measures on corporate evidence” to promote new industrial frontiers by admitting exceptions to the existing regulations
③ National level:
Ø Establishment of a “gray-zone annulment” system which explicitly defines application of the regulations to ease entries into new industries
Ø Further promotion and acceleration of the national-level regulatory reforms by partnership of the Industrial Competitiveness Council and the Regulatory Reform Council, especially in the field of employment, medical care, agriculture, etc.
Prime Minister Abe stated in the Industrial Competitive Council that the regulatory reform will be the breakthrough to boost the country’s economic growth and stressed to promote reforms in the fields of labor and medical care.
Yet, for the persistent resistance of the Ministry of Health and Labor and the labor unions behind in favor of the existing labor legislations and against relaxation of the employment protection in particular, the “Course of Action” failed to entail specific legislative measures regarding the labor and employment.
And some members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council, insisting liquidation and mobilization of workforce and diversification of labor, have given critical comments to the passive attitude of the Ministry of Health and Labor (“Though there were certain advancements in many bedrock regulations, it is unfortunate that there was no progress in the field of ‘employment’.”: paper presented by Heizo Takenaka in the Industrial Competitiveness Council on Oct 1).
Akira Amari, the minister in-charge-of economic recovery, showed his view on Oct 1 that “it is needed to let employment have certain flexibility” and stressed he will continue the efforts toward relaxation of employment regulations, including the Special Zones.
How much initiative and leadership will Abe and Amari take over the content and extent of deregulation in the rigid fields such as medical care or employment? It is a big test to Abe and his Cabinet’s decisiveness toward regulatory reforms.
(Yoshiyuki KUROSAWA, PPPC Chief Researcher)