In her first parliamentary face-off with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, newly elected opposition leader Renho on Wednesday unleashed a scathing criticism of Abenomics, accusing the administration of trying to whitewash its failure to galvanize a stagnant economy.
Renho, who only goes by one name and who became president of the main opposition Democratic Party earlier this month, approached the Upper House podium with an air of confidence before spending about half of her 30-minute speech blasting the state of the economy.
She pointed out that the nation is still mired in deflation, framing Abenomics only half finished after acknowledging its initial success in lowering the yen against the dollar and spurring an uptick in stock prices.
Renho also lashed out at Abe’s decision in June to shelve the consumption tax hike from the current 8 percent to 10 percent for the second time. Abe had said the delay was necessary due to what he called emerging “risks” posed by the world economy, which she labeled an excuse and an attempt to obfuscate the facts behind the tepid performance of Abe’s eponymous economic program.
“The first time you delayed the hike, you promised to improve the economy enough that there wouldn’t be a need for another postponement. But then you casually reneged on the promise because, in your words, you needed to make a ‘new decision’ ” due to the global economy, Renho said.
“A ‘new decision’? Didn’t you mean ‘deception’?” she added.
Abe countered by enumerating a list of statistics pointing to an improved economy, including an increase in jobs, full-time employment and wages.
“Japan is no longer in deflation,” he said.
Alluding to July’s landslide Upper House election victory by his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito, Abe went on to suggest the public had endorsed his decision to postpone the unpopular sales tax increase.
“So your accusation that my delaying the hike deceived the public misses the point,” he told her.
Renho’s fiery critique of Abe’s performance follows in the wake of her campaign pledge to end the party’s tendency toward playing the blame game and to come up with policies of its own.
“I felt so frustrated,” Renho told reporters after her battle with Abe. “I made 22 proposals in my speech, but the prime minister responded by basically boasting about how successful he’s been in his economic and financial policies.”
Still, many of Renho’s proposals, especially those on the economic front, lacked substance and were embellished with platitudes such as calling for “greater investment in people” and “a drastic change in economic policies that don’t lead to growth.”
In response to Renho’s criticism that his administration disregards issues related to children and women, Abe stressed he will make an “all-out effort” to eradicate child poverty and that his government remains committed to creating a society “where women can shine.”
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