TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan will compile a large extra budget immediately after a looming general election to ease the economic blow of the pandemic and boost long-term growth in key areas, a ruling party heavyweight said on Sunday (Oct 3).
"What must be tackled at first is vaccinations. This is the strongest of coronavirus measures," Mr Akira Amari, newly appointed secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told public broadcaster NHK's political debate programme.
Japan should boost its vaccination rate from the current 60 per cent to 70 per cent to 80 per cent, levels seen as easing anxiety among the public, Mr Amari said.
"We have responded with various measures by tapping emergency budget reserves. Now that the reserves are drying up, we will compile a considerably large extra budget immediately after the election."
Given dire public finances, Japan's incoming prime minister, Mr Fumio Kishida, may have little choice but to sell more government bonds to fund a pandemic-relief package that he said would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Mr Amari, a former economy minister seen as a key ally of Japan's longest-serving premier, Mr Shinzo Abe, said the supplementary budget would focus on the environment, digital and infrastructure.
He said the government may consider extending job subsidies, but Mr Keiichi Ishii, his counterpart at the LDP's small coalition partner Komeito called for cash payments of 100,000 yen (S$1,222) to everyone up to 18 years old, or roughly 20 million people.
Mr Kishida, a former foreign minister, won the LDP's leadership race last Wednesday and is expected to be elected prime minister in Parliament on Monday, replacing Mr Yoshihide Suga, by virtue of the party's majority in the Lower House. He is expected to name his Cabinet later in the day.
He will lead the LDP in a general election that must be held by Nov 28.
Finance Minister Taro Aso's brother-in-law, Mr Shunichi Suzuki, is set to replace Mr Aso, while Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will keep his post, Japanese media said.
Mr Hirokazu Matsuno, an education minister in Mr Abe's Cabinet, is set to become chief Cabinet secretary, a core position and the top government spokesperson, reports said.
Mr Kishida will retain Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi - younger brother of Mr Abe - and name Education Minister and Mr Abe ally Koichi Hagiuda as trade and industry minister, the point person on energy policy, NHK reported.
Finance ministry bureaucrat-turned lawmaker Takayuki Kobayashi is likely to assume the new post of minister dealing with economic security policy, with an eye on assertive China, NHK said.
Former deputy trade minister Daishiro Yamagiwa will likely become economy minister, implementing coronavirus measures and running the prime minister's Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy advisory group.
Ms Seiko Noda, who ran against Mr Kishida, is likely to get a ministerial post along with some other female lawmakers, NHK said, in line with Mr Kishida's aim of having women make up 30 per cent or more of his Cabinet.
Mr Tetsuo Saito, Komeito's number two, is likely to be named transport minister, replacing fellow Komeito lawmaker Kazuyoshi Akaba, media reported.