Ex-wrestler, TV anchor make Japan’s new cabinet
A former wrestler and a television anchorwoman j oined Japan’s cabinet on Wednesday, as part of a reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes will refocus the national political agenda on the economy.
The premier has switched his focus back to the country’s flagging economy after expending political capital pushing unpopular security legislation that could see Japanese troops fighting abroad for the first time in 70 years.
With this in mind, Abe promoted his Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, 59, to a newly created portfolio charged with encouraging greater workforce participation.
Kato, a former finance ministry bureaucrat and a father of four daughters, is also tasked with tackling the declining birthrate and female empowerment — a key element of the so- called Abenomics reforms unleashed more than two years ago.
In the coming decades Japan faces the threat of severe labor shortages and booming welfare costs in a country with a rapidly aging population and one of the world’s lowest birth rates.
The Japanese prime minister retained about half of the current 19 cabinet members, including those heading up the key finance, foreign affairs and economics ministries.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the new line- up after Abe collected letters of resignation from ministers at a noon meeting.
Abe has repeatedly said wom- en are a key part of his flagship bid to kick- start the world’s number three economy and he has pushed for them to fill more senior roles in politics and business.
Yet the premier appointed only three female lawmakers as ministers, down from five appointed in the shake- up in September last year, two of whom are new.
Tamayo Marukawa, a 44-yearold former television anchorwoman, was appointed environment minister while 50- yearold Aiko Shimajiri was given the portfolio in charge of Okinawa and the northern territories.
The expected reduction in female cabinet members comes less than two weeks after Abe vowed to push initiatives for women’s empowerment at a United Nations meeting in New York.
Hiroshi Hase, a colorful 54- year- old professional wrestler- turned- politician, was given the education portfolio.
His predecessor, Hakubun Shimomura, had offered to resign last month over his involvement in abandoned plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics main stadium after the venue’s eyewatering US$ 2 billion price tag sparked a public backlash.
Abe asked him to stay on until the reshuffle.
Yoshimasa Hayashi, a 54- year- old Upper House lawmaker who in 2012 lost the race for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership post against Abe, was replaced as agriculture minister by Hiroshi Moriyama, after serving less than a year in the post.