Six challenges Suga is leaving for the next Japanese prime minister


Japan updates

The resignation of concerned and charisma-hungry Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday puts Japan in a familiar place. The top post has now changed hands 11 times over the past two decades, and the newly opened leadership race within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) carries the standard risk that its choice – good or bad ( but almost certainly male and advanced in years) – could unravel within a year or so. The new leader’s chances of avoiding this humiliation and leading Japan into a more assuredly post-Abenomics era will depend on how he tackles a formidable array of challenges. Here are, in numerical terms, six of them.


This is the proportion of Japanese adults who received two doses of the vaccine – a rate that places the world’s third-largest economy slightly behind the United States (52.6%) and slightly ahead of El Salvador (44.6% ). Although Japan’s immunization program accelerated sharply to around 1 million doses per day, its late start and initially confused administration was at the heart of Suga’s downfall. While the death toll in Japan from the pandemic remains relatively low, Suga never convinced voters that everything was under control. He should have known that this was precisely the kind of solace and paternalism that a country like Japan, with the world’s fastest aging population, expects. His successor must rebuild confidence with an audience now politely but unambiguously breathless.


This is the estimated (and still increasing) number of combat force ships in the People’s Republic of China’s Navy, a figure that makes it the largest maritime military force in the world and whose growing security threat region was identified under Suga as Japan’s highest defense. priority. The implications of this growing armada, along with China’s ever-increasing cyberwarfare capabilities, will put relentless pressure on the domestic diplomatic and political finesse of a new Japanese ruler as the country’s vulnerabilities become increasingly evident.


The number of medals Japan won at the Tokyo Olympics without spectators, including 27 gold – a record total the country continues to build on impressively at the Paralympics. Despite all this sporting success, Suga leaves in part because, as a man never imagined smiling at anything, he couldn’t turn that triumph into political fortune. He was cranky, the nation was cranky, and the next Japanese prime minister has to live with the fact that bread and circuses don’t work like they did before Covid. Suga’s successor also won’t wonder why the LDP decided to risk the country’s health for an estimated $ 25 billion event whose brief glories have already faded.


That’s the number of shrill responses reported by the Cabinet Secretariat task force when asked Japanese bureaucrats to justify the continued dependence on fax machines in government. Despite his brief reign, Suga with the zeal of a Silicon Valley unicorn pushed the creation of Japan’s first digital agency, a branch of government mandated to disrupt old-fashioned practices with bold 21st-century technology like the email. The ardent defense of faxes, however legitimately argued, gives an idea of ​​the political capital that will be needed to maintain momentum in this area. The agency began life on September 1, operating for just two days before its chief architect stepped down.


This is the proportion of companies in the Nikkei 225 index that now have at least one activist shareholder on their ledger, which is rapidly approaching US S&P 500 levels. For Japan, reaching this ratio would have seemed totally implausible in just a few years. since. But empowering shareholders against Japanese corporate intransigence is a legacy of Suga’s persistence in arming investors with Japan’s first codes of management and corporate governance in 2015. Suga shares with the Topix index at a 30-year peak and with foreign and domestic investors. carefully on the lookout for whether a successor will support or derail the extraordinary market changes of recent years.


Or more accurately the promise of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. This was perhaps the biggest surprise Suga created while she was in charge. He is undoubtedly the one who will have the most lasting repercussions beyond his departure, even if these shocks come in the form of bitter clashes and strewn with compromises between the next Prime Minister and the vested interests of Japanese companies. . Suga’s apparent enthusiasm for the cause has led him to aim for a 46% drop in emissions by 2030 from 2013 levels. This has always been hugely ambitious, but calculated in a calculated way: you can’t see a successor quickly abandon that goal, especially as the world prepares for the United Nations climate change conference in November.


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