• Reuters, Jiji

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is pledging wide-ranging payouts in his upcoming stimulus package, including financial assistance to students and other people struggling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As he launched his second Cabinet on Wednesday following a general election last month, Kishida said cash payouts worth ¥100,000 each will be delivered to students, temporary workers and low-income households hit hardest by the pandemic.

Separately, the government will also offer cash and vouchers worth a combined ¥100,000 to children age 18 or younger, excluding those of families with annual income exceeding ¥9.6 million, he said.

“We will compile an extra budget as soon as possible by the end of this year, to deliver (the payouts) at the earliest date possible,” Kishida told a news conference Wednesday.

With elections out of the way, Kishida has set an ambitious agenda of passing economic stimulus on Nov. 19, as well as an extra budget to fund the spending by the end of this month.

The package will also include aid to the agriculture and fishery industries, which have been hurt by a recent spike in gasoline prices, he said, without elaborating on the size of expected spending.

Kishida formed his Cabinet on Wednesday after his Liberal Democratic Party won a fresh mandate from the public in the Lower House election on Oct. 31 with a strong majority.

A post-election boost for the softly-spoken former banker boosted government support ratings to 53% in an opinion poll this week by public broadcaster NHK. Two weeks ago, support was at 46%.

The solid ratings and a planned economic stimulus that could be worth more than ¥30 trillion, coupled with high vaccination rates, could help Kishida solidify his power base in the LDP.

Kishida reappointed all but one of the ministers from the previous lineup, announced last month after he was first elected by parliament following his victory in the LDP leadership race triggered by Yoshihide Suga’s resignation in September.

The one change was in the position of foreign minister, where Kishida replaced Toshimitsu Motegi, who has become the LDP’s secretary-general, with another party heavyweight — former Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Kishida, who has vowed to take a firm stance on democracy in the Chinese-ruled city of Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses related to the Uyghur Muslim minority, appointed former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani as his special adviser in charge of international human rights issues.

The prime minister said his economic policy will include steps to promote digitalization, investment in green technology and a review of listing standards to help startups raise funds more smoothly.

He further said the government will speed up preparations to submit legislation to parliament for steps to strengthen Japan’s supply chain and infrastructure.

Subsidies to municipalities will also be expanded to promote his push to create a virtuous cycle of economic growth and wealth redistribution, Kishida said.

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