Keiichi Ishii on Japan's Economic Growth Strategy

May 27, 2013

In a series featured in the daily Komei Shimbun organ newspaper, senior New Komeito officials provide perspectives and positions on key policy issues. For this installment, Keiichi Ishida, 55,who chairs New Komeito's Policy Research Council, addresses the party's strategy to achieve sustainable economic growth.

In his interview, Ishii identifies the core industries, sectors and demographics that should help drive the nation forward in the years to come. While noting that some areas of the Japanese economy, particularly the yen-dollar rate and stock market, have shown significant improvement in recent months, Ishii insisted that a visionary and viable growth strategy was necessary so that general consumers, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and communities outside the major cities can enjoy the fruits of an economic rebound. This was why New Komeito submitted its national growth strategy proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 24, 2013.

Under the party proposal, four groupings-energy and the environment; health and medicine; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; and culture, tourism and rejuvenation of smaller communities-would be targeted as core drivers of the domestic economy and extended maximum government support. It also focuses on three categories that are foundational to growth-SMEs; women and young people; and scientific research and technological innovations-and provided with a similar magnitude of support.

Many small manufacturers in Japan boast extensive knowledge bases in technology and methodologies, but lack the resources to exploit growth fields and markets. To facilitate their transition to more profitable and technologically challenging domains, Ishii explained, his party is pushing for bigger tax credits on R&D, as well as a one-stop service regime to support their marketing and manufacturing moves into foreign markets.

Among the initiatives New Komeito seeks for women is to eliminate waiting lists for children wanting to enroll in daycare facilities, enabling more women to return to the workplace; offer tax incentives for firms that proactively support women to improve their work life balance; and other programs. He added the party endorses such diverse forms of employment as teleworking and satellite offices, supports the transition of non-permanent part-timers to permanent positions, and is seeking to achieve a more equitable profit-sharing arrangement between management and labor.

One New Komeito proposal in the energy field, Ishii said, is to establish an Energy Management System in which electric power consumption can be monitored and controlled at home and other facilities through "smart meters," which communicate usage via the Internet and other data services. Regenerative medicines based on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) R&D, which New Komeito has successfully lobbied for over the years, is also a focal point of the party's growth strategy, as is the field of robotics, particularly in living assistance applications. Another key goal is to double annual exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and services to ¥1 trillion by government-backed marketing support programs.

"The key will be in political execution," Ishii concluded. "Not only do we need to make sure that the government's national growth strategy be viable and productive, we must have the will and leadership to ensure that it gets done."