Abe Administration's Two-Year Policy Performance Rated at 2.5 Points Out of 5

December 08, 2014

Ahead of the election for the House of Representatives on Sunday, December 14, The Genron NPO has carried out an evaluation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration over the past two years. This evaluation was based on an assessment of how well the administration has achieved 67 items in 11 key areas of core policy pledged to the Japanese electorate in either the manifesto for the 2012 election to the House of Representatives or in policy speeches by the prime minister himself. The results were announced on Monday, December 1, in the form of a two year report card (see Evaluation by Policy Area at a Glance below). The administration obtained an average of 2.5 points out of a maximum possible score of 5.0, a slight decrease from the last year's score of 2.7 points.

Economic Policy

The Abe administration has placed most emphasis on its economic policy of Abenomics with its three arrows of bold monetary policy (aggressive monetary easing), flexible fiscal policy (massive fiscal stimulus) and structural reform for growth. The score has fallen by 0.4 points from 3.2 points last year to 2.8 points this year. The overriding objective of Abenomics is to create a virtuous circle of expanding private consumption (based on higher wages) and private sector investment tied to a recovery in corporate profits driven by a cheaper yen and a rising stock market resulting from the first arrow of bold monetary policy. We can see from improvements in export volumes and industrial output that these stimuli have had an effect but we cannot tell if we are at the beginning of a strong cycle or deny that the economy may move into a virtuous circle. Most of the policy items relating to economic policy received a score of either 2 or 3 and although the third arrow of structural reform is being developed, that in itself is not enough.

Fiscal Policy

At the press conference where Prime Minister Abe announced that he was postponing the consumption tax hike he also explained that there would still be a primary balance surplus in 2020 and a plan to achieve this would be in place by next summer. However, according to estimates from the Cabinet office (dated 25 July 2014), if consumption tax is increased to 10 percent, then even if we assume average nominal growth in GDP of 3 percent and real growth of 2 percent then there will still be a deficit of 11 trillion yen. We have to conclude that it will be difficult to achieve his targets for fiscal revival and the score for this area of policy is accordingly low.

Foreign Policy and other policy areas

With respect to Foreign Policy and National Security, there has been some success both in talks with China, which has been intransigent until recently, and in efforts to improve relations with South Korea. The prime minister himself has also been praised for taking a global perspective, traveling overseas and improving Japan-US relations, which had been poor under the DPJ government. As a result, the score for this area of policy has improved from 3.1 points last year to 3.2 points this year. The prime minister's initiatives to develop a self-reliant agricultural sector with reduced acreage of cultivation have also been favorably evaluated and the score for agriculture has also risen to 3.2 points. However he does not have a cabinet consensus to reduce the acreage of cultivation or reform the agricultural cooperatives and we need to monitor future efforts to execute these plans.
In the policy area of Energy, the decision on nuclear energy has essentially been postponed so the basic direction of Japan's energy policy from now, with a "best mix" of energy resources, is not established. If we look at the current state of affairs of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy then it looks as if every effort will be made to avoid a decision until after the regional elections next year. They are also unable to set the related targets for the global environment so we are also behind from a global perspective.

With respect to Social Security, the government has examined the financing of public pensions. Although it is clear that there are issues with the current system a strategy to come up with a new sustainable system is behind schedule and the evaluation for this area of policy is also low.  

Overall Evaluation

The fact that the subjects of this evaluation, the LDP's manifestos for the 2012 election to the House of Representatives and the 2013 election to the House of Councilors, were themselves an incomplete set of election pledges, and the fact that we still do not have a comprehensive suite of policies based on a vision of the future, has had an adverse impact on our overall evaluation. The administration's score fell in six areas of policy because matters such as the Special Secrecy Law and water contamination at the Fukushima nuclear plant have not been sufficiently explained to the electorate. The administration's sense of responsibility to explain issues not covered in their public pledges is particularly being called into question.
On the basis of the reasons summarized here, our overall evaluation of the Abe administration's performance fulfilling its pledges to the electorate is sluggish. For further details of the evaluation of the each area of policy please click on the link under the relevant score in the table below.

This evaluation was prepared with the cooperation of 40 members of The Genron NPO Manifesto Evaluation Committee. This group included Kenji Yumoto (Vice Chairman, The Japan Research Institute, Limited), Kazuhiko Nishizawa (Advanced senior economist , The Japan Research Institute, Limited), Mika Ikemoto (Research Fellow, The Japan Research Institute, Limited), Hitoshi Suzuki (Head of Policy Proposal Office, Daiwa Institute of Research Group), Kazuhito Uchida (Corporate Officer, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ), Ken Jimbo (Associate Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University), Yayoi Tanaka (Professor, National Institution for Academic Degree and University Evaluation), Kenji Yamaji (Director-General, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth), Kazuo Matsushita (Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University) and Kazumasa Oguro (Associate Professor, Hosei University).

Evaluation by Policy area at a Glance

Economic Revival
Disaster Prevention
& Reconstruction
Foreign Policy & National Security
Social Security
Regional Revival
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Political & Administrative Reform
Constitutional Reform

The achievements in each area of policy were evaluated according to the following criteria:

・Policy goals not embarked on or abandoned
・Policy goals embarked on, in progress but difficulties seen in achieving goals
・Policy goals embarked on, progress on schedule but remains to be seen if goals will be achieved
・Policy goals embarked on, progress on schedule and achievement of goals in sight
・Policy goals attained in past two years or achievement is clearly in sight

Where reasons to explain policy goals have not been given to the electorate one point has been deducted from the score for that area.

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