Suga to take office as Japan PM amid virus, economic woes

SEP 16 , 2020. 23 minutes ago – 09:39 KYODO NEW

TOKYO – Yoshihide Suga, the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, is set to take office as Japan’s prime minister on Wednesday, with the immediate focus on reviving a battered economy while keeping the coronavirus under control.

The parliament will formally choose Suga as premier in an extraordinary session in the afternoon, after which he is expected to form a Cabinet filled with ministers who served under outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Suga has vowed to push forward with Abe’s policies such as “Abenomics,” a mix of measures including monetary easing and fiscal stimulus aimed at beating deflation and spurring growth in the world’s third-largest economy.

The government has set out a 230 trillion yen ($2.2 trillion) package for tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, including subsidies for beleaguered businesses and promotion of domestic tourism, and Suga has hinted at the possibility of additional steps to shore up the economy.

Suga will also take over a sweeping review of Japan’s national security policy that was initiated by Abe after plans to introduce a U.S.-developed missile defense system were scrapped due to technical issues.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato has been tapped to succeed Suga as chief Cabinet secretary, a key post that serves as both a policy coordinator and the government’s top spokesman. Many other Cabinet members such as Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are expected to be retained.

Defense Minister Taro Kono is slated to be named minister in charge of administrative reform, an area Suga has promised to focus on to reduce bureaucratic sectionalism.

Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) and his replacement Yoshihide Suga (L) are pictured on Sept. 16, 2020.  The parliament will formally choose Suga as premier in an extraordinary session later the same day. (Kyodo)

Abe’s Cabinet resigned en masse Wednesday morning, drawing an end to the premier’s record-long tenure of nearly eight years. He had announced in late August that he needs treatment for a chronic bowel disease.

“I have spent every day putting my all into economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s interests,” he told reporters at the prime minister’s office. “It is my honor to have been able to work on a range of issues along with the people during this time. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”