“With a hung parliament, there will not be progress nor any growth to implement radical reforms, only when Japan gets it’s act together will the history stigma of more than a decade of lacklustre GDP performance be gone forever. – Contributed by Oogle.”
Posted: 04 June 2012 1416 hrs
TOKYO – Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reshuffled his Cabinet Monday, bowing to opposition pressure for ministerial scalps as he looks to secure cross-party support for a tax hike.
Noda announced a limited rejig naming five new ministers and called on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to give their backing to a Bill that would eventually double sales tax and help partially plug a gaping budgetary hole.
“I decided to reshuffle and strengthen the Cabinet so as to create an environment that enables progress in issues including an overall reform of social security and tax,” Noda told reporters.
Noda has staked his premiership on the sales tax, a move international bodies, academics and journalists all agree is a sensible measure in the battle to overhaul Japan’s debt mountain, which currently stands at around twice GDP.
Part of the proceeds would be used to finance snowballing social security costs resulting from Japan’s rapidly greying society.
But in the highly factionalised world of Japanese politics, Noda has been left trying to placate an opportunist opposition after failing to secure the backing of one of his own party’s key powerbrokers.
Democratic Party of Japan powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, who leads around 100 lawmakers, has set his stall firmly against the tax rise, which he sees as politically unacceptable.
Some of Monday’s sackings were part of the price Noda must pay if he wants cross-party backing for his Bill.
“Toward the end of the current parliamentary session, we will face a crucial decision that will affect the future of Japan,” he said.
“I call for all the politicians, on both sides of the House, to take these proposals seriously,” he said, adding the Bill would come before the Lower House before the parliamentary session ends on June 21.
Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka and Transport Minister Takeshi Maeda lost their jobs after both being censured by the opposition-controlled Upper House in April.
Noda named Takushoku University professor Satoshi Morimoto, a well-known polemicist and regular on television talk shows, as new defence minister, while the new transport minister will be his party’s Upper House affairs chief Yuichiro Hata.
Morimoto is the first non-parliamentarian in a Noda Cabinet.
An advocate of a closer security alliance with the United States, Morimoto has said Japan’s Self-Defence Forces should actively participate in peacekeeping missions abroad, once a sensitive issue in Japan.
To supplement an expected decline in the US military presence in Okinawa when US Marines relocate to Guam, Hawaii and Australia, Japan should “make efforts in defence of its southwestern” region to maintain a deterrent against unpredictable North Korea and increasingly assertive China, he has said.
Noda also sacked Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano, whose involvement — albeit at several steps removed — in a spy scandal that allegedly saw sensitive documents passed to a Chinese diplomat, has proved an embarrassment.
Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, who has been criticised by the LDP for consulting horse racing websites on his mobile phone during a parliamentary session, and Postal Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi were also removed.
Noda named former vice-agriculture minister Akira Gunji as new agriculture minister, vice-judicial affairs minister Makoto Taki as justice minister, and vice-reconstruction minister Tadahiro Matsushita as postal services minister.
Noda stressed Monday that “making an agreement with the largest opposition LDP is the most important” thing in enacting a tax hike Bill, but stopped short of offering the opposition any kind of grand coalition. New cabinet line-up:
Prime Minister: Yoshihiko Noda
Deputy Prime Minister: Katsuya Okada
(Okada is also in charge of social security and tax system reform)
Finance Minister: Jun Azumi
Foreign Affairs Minister: Koichiro Gemba
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister: Yukio Edano
Defence Minister: *Satoshi Morimoto
Environment, Nuclear Disaster Minister: Goshi Hosono
Justice Minister: *Makoto Taki
Internal Affairs and Communication Minister: Tatsuo Kawabata
Health, Labour and Welfare Minister: Yoko Komiyama
Education, Culture, Sports and Science Minister: Hirofumi Hirano
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister: *Akira Gunji
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister: *Yuichiro Hata
Chief Cabinet Secretary: Osamu Fujimura
State Minister in charge of:
Economic and fiscal policy, national strategy: Motohisa Furukawa
Postal Reform, Financial Affairs: *Tadahiro Matsushita
Public Security, North Korean abduction issue, Consumer Affairs, Food Safety: Jin Matsubara
Reconstruction from disaster: Tatsuo Hirano
* denotes newly appointed ministers