Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a policy speech at the Extraordinary Diet session in Tokyo on Oct 3, 2022. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a policy speech marking the start of an extraordinary parliamentary session on Monday vowed to reboot the nation's hard-hit tourism industry by targeting increased spending by visitors.
Kishida said a new target of increasing foreign visitors' total spending to more than 5 trillion yen (about US$35 billion) annually would be set, with the government taking advantage of the Japanese yen's sudden depreciation, which inflates the purchasing power of foreign guests.
While Japan's export-led economy should in theory be cheering a weaker yen, as a weaker yen sees exporters' overseas profits increase when repatriated on favorable exchange rates, and overall competitiveness enhanced in international markets, a persistently weak yen does have its downside
"We will maximize the advantage of the weak yen to recuperate the Japanese economy," Kishida said in his speech.
While Japan's export-led economy should in theory be cheering a weaker yen, as a weaker yen sees exporters' overseas profits increase when repatriated on favorable exchange rates, and overall competitiveness enhanced in international markets, a persistently weak yen does have its downside.
As a weaker yen pushes up already inflated import prices, with the country reliant on imports for 90 percent of its energy requirements, Kishida said the government was poised to combat soaring energy costs for resource-poor Japan by taking "unprecedented steps to alleviate the burden on households and companies."
Regarding ballooning costs for natural gas prices across the globe that could see electricity bills spike in Japan between now and spring, Kishida said measures would be put in place to lessen the impact on households and corporations, but failed to explain in detail how the government planned to achieve this.
As the public is already feeling the pinch of higher prices, Kishida also announced government plans to encourage wage increases by investing 1 trillion yen (US$6.89 billion) in human resource development in "promising fields" over five years.
The extraordinary session on Monday marks the first opportunity for a fully-fledged parliamentary debate between the ruling coalition and the opposition camp after July's upper house election.
The parliamentary session will last for 69 days through Dec 10 and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition (LDP) and opposition parties will engage in a heated debate over a number of hot-button issues.
These include, but are not limited to, the LDP's economic proposals to rescue the world's third-largest economy from the downside effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as from a stark lack of economic drivers.
This is amid a continued hollowing-out of the workforce as the society here continues to simultaneously age and shrink, with social welfare costs skyrocketing commensurate with Japan's aging society.
With the LDP's support rate sliding in recent polls, Kishida and his party will also be quizzed by the opposition bloc over its ties to the Unification Church, known for coercing massive amounts of money from its followers in return for "spiritual" or "karmic" benefits, following the party's promise to sever ties to the group.
Earlier last month, an internal probe by the LDP revealed about half of the LDP's lawmakers had ties to the controversial organization, formally known as as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Kishida, henceforth, will be cross-examined by opposition parties over the matter in the extraordinary parliamentary session, amid mounting concerns by opposition parties and the public that the organization has been seeking to influence politics here by deepening its ties with the LDP.