New Japan finance chief vows to set course for fiscal consolidation

Kyodo News

Posted at Oct 05 2021 08:53 PM

Women wearing protective masks co REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
Women wearing protective masks, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walk on a stair bearing a slogan cheering Japanese team during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, August 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO - New Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said Tuesday the government should draw up a road map for achieving fiscal soundness as spending to fight the coronavirus pandemic has caused the nation's finances to deteriorate.

"To secure market confidence as well as sustainability of social security and a sufficient capability to deal with crises, I believe we need to solidify the path toward fiscal consolidation," Suzuki told a press conference after assuming the post the previous day in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet.

With the nation's financial condition becoming "even more severe" due to the cost of responding to the pandemic, the 68-year-old minister also pledged to facilitate investment in "key areas" of focus for the new administration, such as digitalization and decarbonization.

As for Kishida's economic stimulus plan, Suzuki said he has yet to receive any specific instructions from the premier, but he will promote discussions on potential steps with each ministry.

Kishida said at his inaugural press conference on Monday he will soon compile an economic package worth "tens of trillions of yen," or hundreds of billion dollars, to support people and businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Kishida said he is considering cash handouts to "vulnerable people," without giving details.

The upcoming economic stimulus could worsen the nation's fiscal health, which is already the worst among major developed countries with over 1,200 trillion yen ($10.8 trillion) worth of public debt, more than double its annual gross domestic product, as of March.

Suzuki succeeded Taro Aso, his brother-in-law who had served as the nation's finance chief since December 2012, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party returned to power. Aso had over 3,200 days in office, the longest in the post-World War II era.