Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan unveiled a cabinet Tuesday
of six new members and 11 from the Hatoyama administration. Polls
show 63 percent of Japanese have high hopes for Kan's
Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised a fresh start
Tuesday for the ruling Democratic party of Japan (DPJ) as he named a
cabinet tasked with reviving the economy and restoring public faith
in politicians ahead of upper house elections.
The lineup of the new cabinet, which includes 11 of 17 ministers
who served Mr. Kan's predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, is also being seen
as a snub to Ichiro Ozawa, the party's "shadow shogun," whose
implication in funding scandals has tarnished the party's image.
Critics of Ozawa occupy key posts, and in recent days the former
DPJ secretary-general has been conspicuous by his absence. He and
Mr. Hatoyama resigned last week after the latter conceded he had
badly mishandled the relocation of a key US military base on Okinawa
island and failed to stamp out sleaze in the party.
Kan's appointment has received a positive response from voters: A
Mainichi Shimbun poll found 63 percent of respondents had high hopes
for the new administration, compared with recent support ratings of
under 20 percent for Hatoyama.
Diving into debt woes
Kan said Japan's public debt, about 200 percent of gross domestic
product, according to the International Monetary Fund, was his most
pressing issue. "We need a bipartisan debate now on what really
needs to be done to restore finances, in terms of the extent and
time," he told reporters.
His options include a potentially unpopular rise in the
consumption [sales] tax, although the DPJ has ruled that out until
after the next general election, which isn't due until 2013.
Unlike his predecessor, who took office last September on a wave
of popular support, Kan will not have the luxury of a honeymoon
Instead, he will have to work quickly to convince voters and
investors that he has the wherewithal to fight deflation, rein in
public debt, and raise the revenues needed to fund manifesto
promises on public spending.
Kan, the former finance minister, chose as his successor his
former deputy Yoshihiko Noda, a fiscal conservative who is expected
to announce the government's new strategy on fiscal reform by the
end of the month.
Kan's enthusiasm for a weaker yen and a freer lending regime has
already found favor among Japan's battered exporters.
Old and new faces
Yoshito Sengoku, the new chief cabinet secretary, said the
ministers were "young, fresh, and enthusiastic about their jobs."
"Prime Minister Kan has appointed the ministers mindful of the
need to form a government with professionalism, very clean politics,
and ability to govern," he said. …