Continuity. Con-ti-nu-i-ty. That's the five-syllable meme being brandished by new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. In other words, things are just going to keep sailing along smoothly, just as they were under the helm of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, without any nasty surprises in the nation's bodily politic.
It's sort of reassuring to the voters, n'est pas?
But Shukan Taishu (Sept 28-Oct 5) warns readers to be on guard for some unexpected surprises. For one thing, while John Coates, who heads the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, proclaimed on Sept 7 that despite the coronavirus pandemic, "All of our planning is proceeding on the basis that the Games will take place on the 23rd of July next year."
The magazine cautions that Coates' remarks are no more than a "trial balloon" aimed at dispelling the mood to cancel the games.
Two weeks prior to Coates' remarks, on Aug 22, the head of the International Association of Athletics Federations Sebastian Coe, MP and a member of the IOC, remarked that sport will need to "think outside the box" in the case of next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo being cancelled.
Apparently in addition to the pandemic, Abe's departure from the scene has had an influence on Japan's determination toward moving forward with the games.
In the view of a reporter on the desk of a major daily newspaper, "Abe's resignation is viewed as an unstable element influencing risk management as far as the holding of the games is concerned."
"I am 200% convinced that the games, postponed to next summer, are going to be cancelled," political commentator Jiro Honzawa told the magazine. "If that happens, the 19 trillion yen in revenues anticipated from inbound visitors, will go to zero. The impact will be further felt by the already suffering hotels, travel agencies, restaurants and so on, which can expect losses in the trillions of yen."
Amid the various chatter, Honzawa points out that "Metropolitan Tokyo and the Olympic Organizing Committee have delegated Dentsu (Japan's largest advertising agency) with handling the Olympics."
Honzawa continues: "There's a rumor going around in the government that if Dentsu suffers major losses, it will be reimbursed via a tax increase."
Dentsu, Shukan Taishu reports, had a buddy-buddy relationship with Abe that will continue under Suga, his successor.
Over his eight-year tenure as prime minister, Honzawa notes that Abe accumulated government debts of 500 trillion yen. And the double whammy of the corona pandemic and cancellation of the Olympics will further deepen the deficit.
"Up to now, just about all measures available, such as raising the health care payments for the elderly from 10% to 20% and reducing pension payouts, have been taken, but there're no other solutions left -- except a tax increase," he says.
A source in the ruling LDP tells the magazine he believes that such previous acts of government largess as the free "Abenomasks" and various monetary payouts are likely to blunt the public's reaction to the imposition of a new "corona recovery tax."
But will this tax, in fact, be applied to measures for dealing with the coronavirus?
"Additional tax revenues are more likely to go to propping up Dentsu and the related firms that incurred losses from the Olympics," says the aforementioned Honzawa, who adds, "Right after Suga announced his candidacy for LDP president, his pledge not to reduce the consumption tax was effectively a subtle hint that he was thinking in terms of a tax increase."
Japan's prime minister might change, says Shukan Taishu, but nothing else does. Aren't there any politicians out there who aren't so dead set at picking the taxpayers' pockets?© Japan Today