'True-to-its-word' Cabinet must be worthy of name
If Prime Minister Naoto Kan is going to use the phrase "true-to-its-word Cabinet" as a slogan, he must make solid policy achievements commensurate with his words.
On Friday, Kan delivered a policy speech for the second time since he became prime minister in June. In it, he highlighted five important policy agendas--achieving economic growth, putting public finances on a sound footing, reforming social security, advancing reform of regional sovereignty and implementing proactive diplomacy--and pledged to steadily carry them out.
Kan's latest policy speech was a declaration that his administration will no longer postpone implementing important policies, and an expression of his resolve to settle issues put off during the two lost decades after the collapse of the bubble economy, rather than hand them down to the next generation.
Kan's message is clear, but he has yet to indicate a specific path for tackling such issues in the current divided Diet, where the passage of any legislation must have the cooperation of opposition parties.
Also, the specifics of Kan's many policies appear to be the same as those already in existence and are therefore unsatisfactory.
Admit errors in manifesto
Kan again proposed talks between the ruling and opposition parties over a draft supplementary budget, achieving fiscal soundness and social security reform.
"Let us work together to build politics in which sovereignty truly lies with the people," Kan said. However, the situation is not so easy that such a call alone can solicit cooperation from opposition parties.
Regarding the Democratic Party of Japan's manifesto, which opposition parties are demanding be reviewed, Kan did not say much besides: "We will continue to make a sincere effort to fulfill the campaign pledges," and "In cases where budgetary constraints make it difficult to implement policies as originally stated in our manifesto, I will seek to come up with measures...that are acceptable to the Japanese people by candidly explaining to them the situation."
However, this is insufficient.
Kan needs to tackle drastic reform of the manifesto by admitting that campaign promises for which there is not sufficient funding, such as the child-rearing allowance, were a mistake and apologize to the public.
Kan spoke of the need to conduct "active, proactive diplomacy" to secure this country's peace and prosperity. His understanding of the issue is correct, but Kan's handling of foreign policy appears unsure.
The government has continued to postpone coordination with local governments over the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corp.'s Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, which has kept relations between Tokyo and Washington from improving.
Kan's meaning unclear
The Kan administration came under fire for leaving to prosecutors an important decision about releasing the captain of a Chinese fishing boat after his trawler collided with Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkaku Islands last month. The administration also has delayed the dispatch of the Ground Self-Defense Force to Sudan to engage in peacekeeping operations there.
Kan said, "All of our citizens need to regard this as a problem that affects them directly, and we need to work together as a nation to develop an active foreign policy."
However, his explanation is not enough, and it is difficult to understand what he really means by saying that. It is important for the public to be interested in this country's foreign policy, but Kan's remark could give the impression that the government is dodging its responsibility.
A series of important international meetings are scheduled from this week to mid-November, including the Asia-Europe Meeting, the East Asia Summit, Group of 20 summit meeting and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Kan should do his utmost to reconstruct Japan's diplomacy on his own responsibility.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 3, 2010)