Suganomics’ performance amid pandemic is vital to Tokyo’s success
Published: Jan 21, 2021 06:40 PM

People wearing face masks sit in a train in Tokyo, Japan, on November 12, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

Maintaining economic growth is seen as a crucial test for the policy-making of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration. Revitalizing Japan's economy from the damages caused by COVID-19 is the key to solve current problems facing Japan, concerning various aspects of Japan's development planning. 

Delivering a policy speech this week, Suga has made bolstering the economy the centerpiece of his tenure - combating the pandemic and helping the domestic economy to return to normalcy as soon as possible. 

The Suga administration's former hesitation in making emergency declaration in Tokyo and other cities was due to its side-effect on the economy. In 2021, Japan shoulders the responsibility of hosting the Summer Olympics amid a pandemic. 

Getting the virus under firm control is paramount for hosting a successful Olympics and to lift performance of Japan's economy. Whether Suga can efficiently put the virus resurgence under control has become a key element in judging Suga's governance which has a bearing to the government's future.

Second, it needs to safeguard the economic bottom line, secure employment and social stability. 

After the burst of Japan's bubble economy, Japan's society has experienced severe polarization. The overall social income level has spiraled down. Fertility rate decline and aging problem has further dimmed the prospects for the development of Japanese society. The COVID-19 pandemic has acerbated the situation, highlighting the structural contradictions of the Japanese society.

To clear away such pessimism, the core task of Suga's economic policy is to boost market confidence. Therefore to maintain sustainable economic growth, expand employment and ensure stable income growth, has become the most important targets of the Suganomics. 

However, in view of the current situation of Japan's domestic economy and the business environment, promoting the expansion of formal employment will still be one of the main difficulties facing Japanese enterprises and Japan's economic development.

Green and digital policies are the two major cards Suga plays to build his Suganomics system frames. Since Suga came into office in September 2020, a green and digital agenda have become the two key words for Suga administration's economic policies. Green development is not unique to Suganomics, it inherits from the economic policies of previous Japanese governments. 

To highlight the merit of Suganomics, the government announced its 2050 carbon neutralization goal. To promote social economic green development, Japan will also actively promote the rapid development of renewable energy represented by hydrogen energy and wind energy, and create positive and favorable conditions for the restart of nuclear energy.

Going digital is the innovation drive headed by the government. Beginning from government structure, Suga administration is gearing up to establish an agency that will lead the digital transformation of the country. In terms of specific industrial planning and construction issues, the concept and content of "digital economy" will govern the deployment and implementation of all economic policies, promoting majority of the future economy of Japan to be presented in digital form.

To sum up, the economy has become the connecting point of the Yoshihide Suga government's policies at all levels. Whether economic problems can be resolved smoothly is the key to the future success of the government.

The author is a research fellow on international political economics with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.