A 51-day-long extraordinary Diet session started Oct. 20 — the second extraordinary Diet session under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. In the first session, Mr. Noda, who had been in power only for a short period of time, adopted the tactic of “driving safe,” avoiding going deep into details in discussions for fear that he might have trouble with the opposition. In a Kyodo News opinion poll taken one month after the inauguration of the Noda Cabinet, its approval rating was 54.6 percent. But this fairly decent result was only due to the fact that he did not make any big mistakes.
So far Mr. Noda has given priority to securing harmony within the Democratic Party of Japan and has not addressed serious issues in detail. In the new Diet session, he needs to send clear messages concerning what he wants to do to end the political and economic stagnation that has plagued the nation since the 3/11 disasters.
The most important thing for the Noda administration is to steer the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 through the Diet so that measures for reconstruction from the 3/11 disasters will be carried out quickly. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito have decided to cooperate with the DPJ to pass the extra budget. But there is difference in opinion among the parties regarding a bill to increase taxes to finance the budget, the number of years to redeem bonds issued for the reconstruction and the issue of raising the tobacco tax. They need further consultations.
Because there exists strong popular opposition among people to Mr. Noda’s idea of raising taxes for reconstruction, the prime minister must give convincing reasons for why tax increases are necessary. A failure to do so will only intensify opposition to the tax hikes.
The prime minister is also eager to join talks on the Transpacific Strategic Economic Partnership agreement and hopes to announce Japan’s participation in the process during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperate summit next month in Hawaii.
People have many questions concerning the TPP, including its impact on the nation’s agriculture and public health insurance system if Japan joins it. Mr. Noda needs to offer detailed explanations on each point. Because the TPP is a sweeping multilateral treaty that could change many aspects of the Japanese economy and society, he would do well to adopt a cautious stance toward it.
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