Former Olympics minister Suzuki slated to be next Japan finance minister: Japan media

Japan's former Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki has served as environment minister as well.
Japan's former Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki has served as environment minister as well.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan’s new leader will appoint little-known but well-connected lawmaker Shunichi Suzuki as finance minister, the Yomiuri daily reported, a choice which analysts said signals continuity in the government’s bid to balance growth with fiscal reform.

Incumbent Finance Minister Taro Aso is set to be appointed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) vice-president on Friday (Oct 1), the paper said.

Mr Suzuki, 68, is son of former prime minister Zenko Suzuki and brother-in-law of Aso, and has also served as environment minister. 

Mr Suzuki, a former Olympics minister, is little known even in Japan and may lack the power and flair of his predecessor Mr Aso, making it likely that he will stick to the government’s policy of tempering growth spending with fiscal reform, analysts said.

Former foreign minister Kishida clinched a victory in the LDP's leadership election on Wednesday and is almost certain to replace Mr Yoshihide Suga as prime minister by virtue of the LDP’s majority in the powerful lower house. 

He is expected to be officially voted when parliament sits on Monday and will announce a cabinet reshuffle on the same day.

Ms Mari Iwashita, chief market economist at Daiwa Securities, said Mr Suzuki, who has long been floated as the next leader of Mr Aso’s party faction, will likely follow Mr Mr Aso’s footsteps and the finance ministry’s policy objectives.

“People at the finance ministry believe the nation’s credit risk will be increased without fiscal consolidation, and would opt for moderate fiscal mobilisation. He will be a minister who goes along with that sense of moderation,” she said.

Ms Iwashita noted that Mr Suzuki was long seen as a senior leader within Mr Aso’s political faction, and was expected to follow in his footsteps and stick to the finance ministry’s objectives.

While Mr Aso made little headway in improving Japan’s finances, despite raising the national sales tax twice, he was considered a commanding presence on the international stage.

Some government sources saw Mr Aso’s departure, after representing Japan for nearly nine years on issues such as global tax reforms at Group of Seven (G7) and G20 debates, as a blow.

“His departure would have a big impact on Japan’s presence. He has been the face of Japan at G7/G20 meetings. His words have carried weight,” one source said.

In a cabinet reshuffle, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is set to retain his post, while Mr Hirokazu Matsuno, who served as education minister under former prime minister Shinzo Abe, is likely to become chief cabinet secretary, media have reported.

Mr Matsuno is a member of an LDP faction closely related to Mr Abe.

Veterinarian-turned politician Daishiro Yamagiwa, who has written a book with Mr Abe ally Akira Amari, will be appointed trade minister, Kyodo news agency said.

Some key party posts will also be filled by lawmakers linked to Mr Abe, according to media reports, underscoring the sway Japan’s longest-serving prime minister will have over Mr Kishida’s government.

Mr Abe’s backing of Mr Kishida in the final leadership vote was influential in him winning.

Mr Amari was appointed as the party’s new secretary-general, and Ms Sanae Takaichi, who ran against Mr Kishida in the party leadership election with Mr Abe’s initial backing, was chosen as its new policy chief.

Mr Taro Kono, who was Mr Kishida’s biggest rival for the top job, was appointed the party’s public relations chief after being passed over for more senior roles.