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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s abrupt announcement Friday that he will step down when his term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expires on Sept. 30 has left Japan’s business community stunned.

With the country facing a number of serious challenges in rebuilding its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, business leaders asked for the continued promotion of important policy steps, such as COVID-19 measures, by the next administration.

When Suga became prime minister in September last year, he said that he would continue the Abenomics economic policy mix of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. In addition, Suga has focused on creating a digitalized and carbon-free society to ensure growth for Japan after the pandemic.

Suga, however, has been accused of falling to adequately implement infection control measures.

“I was very surprised,” said Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, which is more commonly known as Keidanren.

“The (COVID-19) vaccination speed would not have been possible without the prime minister’s strong leadership,” Tokura told reporters.

“We can’t afford any further delay on coronavirus measures,” he added, calling for efforts to avoid confusion after Suga’s sudden decision.

The prime minister’s pet policies, including decarbonization, are “indispensable for Japan’s future,” and it is important for the incoming administration to continue them, said Takeshi Niinami, president of food and beverage giant Suntory Holdings Ltd. Niinami is also a member of the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, which is chaired by Suga.

“A big push has been made toward decarbonization,” an official at a major electric power company said of the Suga administration’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050. “Our future direction will not change no matter who becomes prime minister.”

Meanwhile, an official at a mobile phone service operator said that Suga’s departure “won’t have a negative influence on the industry.” Japanese telecommunications companies have been pressed by the his administration to lower mobile phone fees.

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