The government panels set up to achieve Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's key policies are causing confusion as the roles of each group are unclear.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced the establishment of four panels: on the "digital garden city state" initiative; on the acceleration of digital, regulatory and administrative reforms; on a social security system for all generations; and on raising the wages of nurses, workers caring for older people, and nursery teachers.
The first meeting of the social security panel was convened soon afterward, with Kishida urging members to "give honest opinions."
Just last month, Kishida launched the Council for New Form of Capitalism Realization, aiming to hammer out details of the "new form of capitalism" and "positive cycle of growth and distribution" proposals featured in his campaigns in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's leadership race in September and the Oct. 31 general election.
The council is chaired by Kishida himself and comprises Cabinet members as well as academic and other experts.
The digital garden city panel is aimed at revitalizing regional economies through digital technologies, while the other new digital panel is intended to advance digital, regulatory and administrative reforms in unison.
The social security system panel will examine the system in general. Among its members, it has the team on raising the wages of nurses, care workers and nursery teachers as a subgroup.
All panels excluding the wages team are given equal authority, and the lines between their roles are unclear.
For example, policies regarding the positive cycle of growth and distribution fall under the authority of not just the new capitalism panel but also of the existing Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy.
In addition to the two new panels on digitalization, the government also has the Digital Society Promotion Council, established under former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Their responsibilities are seen to overlap.
The responsibilities of the new panel for digital, regulatory and administrative reforms completely overlap with those of two existing bodies: the Council for Promotion of Regulatory Reform and the Administrative Reform Promotion Council.
Matsuno insisted that the new and existing panels will cooperate closely to advance discussions. But many officials have voiced confusion.
"We don't know how to differentiate the panels," a source at the Cabinet Office said.
"I don't know what the government wants to do," noted a middle-ranking member of the LDP faction previously headed by the recently deceased Wataru Takeshita. "I don't see Kishida's traits at all."
The rush to set up the panels is seen as part of Kishida's drive to produce achievements ahead of next summer's House of Councillors election.
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