With allegations of corruption against economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari showing no signs of abating, Democratic Party of Japan President Katsuya Okada accused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday of sharing “grave responsibility” over the scandal.
Okada started what was supposed to be his argument against Abe’s policy speech last week by lashing out at the prime minister’s role in the alleged impropriety.
“Minister Amari is one of your closest allies,” he said. “You are responsible for appointing him in the first place and you yourself bear a grave responsibility to explain yourself. You must not run away.”
Abe, in response, said he expects Amari to confirm all the facts of what happened and duly explain everything to the public soon.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Amari, a longtime Abe ally, is expected to hold a news conference on the matter Thursday.
The weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported last week that Amari and his secretaries received cash and wining and dining worth at least ¥12 million from an unidentified construction company in Chiba Prefecture to intervene in a dispute with the Urban Renaissance Agency public housing corporation over a redevelopment project.
If confirmed, Amari, known internationally as the tough mastermind of Japan’s successful bid last year to reach an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact with the United States, would come under pressure to resign and deliver a damaging punch to the Abe administration.
At the crux of the rest of Okada’s speech was his emphasis on the eradication of economic disparities, greater utilization of women and young workers, and Japan’s shift to a more diverse society accepting of minorities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members.
Okada lambasted Abe’s deflation-busting Abenomics economic policies, suggesting its trickle-down approach only benefits corporate behemoths and disregards the ordinary person.
Instead, Okada said, it’s time the government buckled down and engineered a “fair distribution” of wealth to narrow what he called “widening” income gaps plaguing Japanese people.
Abe responded by saying that economic growth must come first. After all, he emphasized, “it’s economic growth that makes wealth distribution possible.”
Okada also assailed what he called the Abe administration’s watered-down commitment — unveiled at the end of last year in its gender equality plan — to achieve its long-held goal of increasing the number of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020.
Though the road ahead has obstacles, Abe answered that his administration remains committed to attaining the original target.
“It goes without saying the government will continue to make an all-out effort to realize the 30 percent goal,” he said.
Okada also stressed that the government must shore up efforts to assist financially struggling university students in such ways as helping reduce their tuition payments and enriching the national scholarship program.