Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Monday he is strongly intent on staying in power to help the economic recovery gather momentum and push through social security reforms, resisting mounting pressure to quit in the face of declining public support.
In light of falling public support for his Cabinet, which has slipped below the critical 20 percent line in the latest polls, Kan called for cooperation to pass the budget and related bills to cover the fiscal 2011 budget. The bills are increasingly at risk of failing to be enacted by the end of March.
“With the enactment and implementation of the budget, the economy will be put on a full-scale growth path,” Kan told a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, saying lawmakers should work for the benefit of the people and not just engage in a power struggle.
Since last week, Kan has come under increasing pressure even from his own ruling party to quit in exchange for helping the government break the political deadlock with the increasingly hostile opposition parties, which control the House of Councilors and are poised to block the bills. But a key member of the opposition said Saturday that Kan’s resignation wouldn’t matter and that the only concession the DPJ could possibly offer to get the bills passed would be to agree to a snap election.
Kan is also encountering resistance to his leadership within his Democratic Party of Japan, which saw 16 of its Lower House members threaten last week to leave the party’s parliamentary group.
Kan said at the committee session that tax and social security reforms are “unavoidable and important,” so “I’d like to work hard until the last minute by recognizing the reforms as a historical mission of the government at this time.”
He said he remained committed to creating a detailed plan for both reform goals by June.
Meanwhile, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said Sunday the party intends to revise its platform in August with an eye to scrapping its plan for toll-free expressways and to give up on providing the full amount of monthly child allowances pledged at the last general election.
Okada’s remark, made in a speech in Ise, Mie Prefecture, is expected to increase turmoil within the DPJ as lawmakers close to indicted former leader Ichiro Ozawa have criticized moves by party executives to review its election pledges.
“It has been a year and a half (since the DPJ assumed power) and there are still things we have not been able to (achieve),” Okada said. “We need to explain clearly what can and cannot be done in four years.”
As for the plan to make expressways toll-free in principle, he said there is no need to reduce or eliminate tolls if it would result in traffic jams, claiming trials conducted so far have shown the measure causes congestion.
Concerning the party’s pledge to provide monthly child allowances of ¥26,000, Okada said that while he believes such benefits are necessary, he thinks some of the money earmarked for the allowances could be used for other steps such as creating more child care centers.
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