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Koizumi takes up post for Tohoku reconstruction

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Shinjiro Koizumi’s appointment Monday as parliamentary secretary in charge of Tohoku’s recovery has generated much attention amid mounting criticism of the government for failing to speed up reconstruction efforts or end the radioactive water spill into the sea at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The 32-year-old son of popular former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is one of four parliamentary secretaries at the Reconstruction Agency and will oversee its Iwate and Miyagi divisions. It is the first time Koizumi, a Liberal Democratic Party Lower House lawmaker, has been tapped for any government position.

“I would like to do my best to win the trust of the people (in the disaster-hit northeast) by visiting the area and listening to them,” Koizumi told reporters after taking office Tuesday.

He is known as a strong supporter of victims of the March 2011 natural and nuclear disasters. As head of the ruling LDP’s Youth Division, Koizumi formed a group called Team-11 and since February has been visiting disaster-stricken areas on the 11th of every month.

As a political blue blood, Koizumi has been on the radar since winning his seat in the 2009 House of Representatives election. His good looks, boldness and lack of hesitation in speaking out against high-ranking LDP members have made him popular with voters.

He assumes his new post after being credited by both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and the LDP for building trust among Tohoku’s disaster victims.

“He made a very strong case about what he wanted to do and why,” LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said Tuesday.

Koizumi’s elevation comes just as the Abe administration needs a spokesman to explain to Tohoku the proposed termination, a year ahead of schedule, of the corporate tax surcharge for Tohoku’s reconstruction that tacks 10 percent on the regular levy businesses pay.

The move is part of ¥5 trillion in stimulus measures unveiled Tuesday to mitigate the impact of the sales tax hike to 8 percent next April that Abe announced the same day. But Abe already has been slammed for seeking to retain for the next 25 years the income tax surcharge for Tohoku’s reconstruction, which adds 2.1 percent to the regular tax rate, as originally planned.

Koizumi has already expressed his disapproval over the decision to prematurely end the corporate levy surcharge.

“I know people in the disaster areas were not happy when the government started talking about terminating the special corporate tax,” he said last week. “We have to follow through with the LDP’s pledge to accelerate reconstruction in the Tohoku region.”

Koizumi is also critical of his party’s handling of the radioactive water gushing from Fukushima No. 1. It was only after the international community challenged Abe’s assertion that the problem was under control during Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics that his government pledged to take responsibility for halting the flow.

Koizumi took issue with an LDP panel’s recently pitched resolution stating that the Fukushima No. 1 disaster would not be deemed under control until the water woes ended.

“The resolution cast the impression that resolving the (radioactive water flow) issue means the (disaster) situation is under control. But I think that is wrong,” he said, noting the people of Fukushima never felt the crisis was under control, even before the radioactive water spills were revealed.

Koizumi has also shown less appetite for reactivating reactors than Abe, who is busy hawking Japan’s atomic technology overseas.

Last month, he said the nation has to find a way to phase out nuclear power. His comments came after his father reportedly questioned if it will ever be possible to fully control atomic energy and urged the zero-nuclear option for Japan.

  • japanish

    That’s what I like about Japan. Young politicians are put in charge of important projects on merit, not because they’re related to someone. With proactive poilcies like this, Japan’s future is secure!