TOKYO: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, widely expected to become prime minister next week, said on Saturday (Sep 12) he will consider topping up payouts to households and companies to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.
Suga also defended his experience in diplomacy, an area where experts say his resume is rather thin, while steering clear of clues to whether he would call a snap election if he takes over from outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Suga repeated that Japan must focus on reviving the economy before considering ways to fix its tattered finances, ruling out another rise in the national sales tax for a decade.
"If economic woes deepen, we will do whatever it takes and deploy further steps to protect jobs and businesses," Suga said.
"Given current economic circumstances, the government will take such measures if necessary," he said, when asked whether he would give additional payouts to households and companies suffering from shrinking income due to the pandemic.
Suga made the remarks at a televised debate among candidates running in a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election to be held on Monday to pick a successor to Abe.
Abe said last month he would resign due to ill health, after nearly eight years in office.
The winner of the party vote is virtually assured to become prime minister because of the LDP's parliamentary majority.
READ: Japan's Suga vows to put growth ahead of fiscal reform, signals status quo of Abenomics
Rival candidate Shigeru Ishiba said the Bank of Japan (BOJ) should not make any immediate changes to its ultra-easy monetary policy, as doing so would destabilise markets.
But he said the central bank should re-examine its policy framework in the long run to adapt to structural changes in Japan's society, without elaborating.
"The BOJ's biggest mandate is not to push up inflation but to maintain price stability. As such, it should stick to its 2 per cent inflation target," Ishiba said. "It shouldn't rush in doing this, but a re-examination of its policy may be necessary."
When asked about monetary policy, Suga replied: "My view is completely the same" as that of Ishiba.
Suga, 71, a long-time loyal Abe aide, said he would seek solid communication with neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea. Abe oversaw an improvement in ties with Beijing but those with Seoul have been chilled by rows over the wartime past.
He added it was not the right time to discuss a planned visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, postponed because of the COVRead More – Source