Five Takeaways from Japanese Prime Minister Suga’s New Cabinet

© Reuters.  Five Takeaways from Japanese Prime Minister Suga’s New Cabinet
© Reuters. Five Takeaways from Japanese Prime Minister Suga’s New Cabinet

(Bloomberg) — Yoshihide Suga announced Japan’s new cabinet Wednesday, hours after being formally elected prime minister by parliament. Like the one it replaces, the cabinet is dominated by Liberal Democratic Party stalwarts.

More than half of the new cabinet ministers are older than 60, only two are women and no one from the private sector made the cut. Suga takes over from his former boss, Shinzo Abe, who served a record term of almost eight consecutive years as premier, before stepping down due to poor health.

Here are some takeaways on the new lineup:

1. ‘Abenomics’ Stays

Long-serving Finance Minister Taro Aso stays in his role, indicating that Suga will stick to his pledge of maintaining and pressing forward with Abe’s ultra-easy monetary policy and flexible fiscal stance, known as “Abenomics.” Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economy minister who has overseen the country’s response to the coronavirus, also retains his post, as does Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama.

2. ‘Womenomics’ Stalls

The number of women remains at two from the old cabinet, or about 10% of total posts. That falls short of Abe’s “womenomics” goal of having them represent 30% of leadership positions by this year, not to mention his promise to help women “shine.” Suga made little mention of policies to reduce one of the biggest gender wage gaps in the developed world during his party leadership campaign. The LDP has struggled to recruit and promote women, and only about 7% of its lower house members are female. The median age of cabinet members is about 61, with three members in their 70s, including Suga himself.

3. Bureaucrats Beware

Suga, the author of a book on how to control Japan’s bureaucracy, has repeatedly said he wants to break down barriers between the ministries and agencies. He appointed the outspoken Taro Kono as administrative reform minister, putting one of the LDP’s heavy hitters in a role to effect change. As defense minister, Kono this year canceled the deployment of a missile defense shield on cost concerns, a move that proved popular with the public. Suga has picked Takuya Hirai, known for his IT expertise, to head a drive to digitize the government.

4. Farming Out Foreign Policy

In contrast with Abe, who visited some 80 countries as premier, Suga has scant experience with diplomacy. After almost eight years of leader-to-leader foreign relations, more responsibility may now fall on the shoulders of Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. His resume includes negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and more recently the Japan-U.K. trade agreement.

5. Taiwan Connection

Suga picked Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, to be defense minister. The appointment could irritate China, since Kishi is known for his close ties to Taiwan, which Beijing sees as part of its territory. Kishi most recently visited Taipei in August as part of a lawmaker group that met President Tsai Ing-Wen during a trip to mourn her late predecessor, Lee Teng-Hui.


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