Abe Cabinet scores 2.7 out of 5 in Genron policy evaluation

January 01, 2016

→ Read Genron NPO opinion poll on Abe Cabinet's performance

Overall grade
Progresses in TPP agreement, diplomacy, and the passing of bills in some policy areas pushed the overall grade upward. However, the macro economic targets and fiscal targets seem not attainable. The revisions of policy objectives have not been explained fully to ensure accountability which resulted in deductions of points in 12 policy targets. The future vision in each policy area is not yet clear.

(2014: 2.5)

Evaluation of the Abe Cabinet's 3 year performance (out of 5)

Economic revival 2.8
(2014: 2.8)
Fiscal reconstruction 2.25
(2014: 2.0)
Social security 2.25
(2014: 2.0)
Foreign policy and national security 3.6
(2014: 3.2)
Energy and environment 2.2
(2014: 2.0)
Regional revitalization 2.4
(2014: 2.0)
Disaster restoration and disaster prevention 2.3
(2014: 2.8)
Education 2.8
(2014: 2.9)
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries 2.6
(2014: 3.2)
Political and administrative reform 2.7
(2014: 3.0)
Constitutional revision 2.0
(2014: 2.0)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration achieved a slightly increased 2.7 points on average out of 5.0 in a recent Genron NPO study of its policy performance over the last three years.

The evaluation cannot be simply compared to the previous study's results because of differences in the policy items and calculation methods involved, but the latest results do represent a slight improvement from 2.5 in the 2014 study.

This year's study covered 71 items in 11 verifiable policy fields, mainly based on campaign promises made by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the two House of Representatives elections in 2012 and 2014, and for the 2013 House of Councilors election.

Also examined were the prime minister's policy addresses before the Diet (parliament), and the government's actions on promises to the people in such key policy areas as economics, foreign affairs, nuclear power generation and rehabilitation efforts for areas damaged by the deadly earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 in northeast Japan.

The Genron NPO think tank released the policy evaluation results for the Abe administration's three years in power Dec. 26. The study was joined by about 40 experts. Separately, it surveyed 303 well-informed people to collect further information for the study.

→See the results of the expert survey here

The study mainly reviewed progress in efforts to achieve campaign pledges and as for policy areas where the pledges were revised, whether the revisions were fully explained to the people.

The slightly increased rating in the latest study can be ascribed to the fact that the government received a favorable evaluation of 3.6 in the foreign affairs and national security field, up from 3.2 for the previous year. Specifically, the result reflects a broad agreement on freer regional trade rules hammered out under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiative after years of hard negotiations in November, Prime Minister Abe's personal diplomatic drive, which saw him visit 64 countries and areas, the deepening of Japan-U.S. relations and signs of improvement in relations with Japan's neighbors.

Elements that led to reduced ratings included the fact that the core of the prime minister's pet scheme for proactive contributions to peace remains unclear, with no long-range vision to indicate how Japan will contribute to establishing global peace and stability while better involving neighboring countries, notably China, in the international community.

Among policy areas evaluated with lower ratings, the energy and environment field received an evaluation of 2.2, and the social security and fiscal policy field got a rating of 2.25. In the year under review, the government broached important policies on Japan's desirable energy mix and its reduction target for carbon dioxide emissions, but efforts to expand recyclable power sources proved to be lukewarm.

In addition, Japan's energy structure, with a heavy dependence on fossil fuels, remains incompatible with the international trend.

As unfavorable elements in the fiscal policy area, the government did not present a specific fiscal rehabilitation program. As a result, it remains to be seen whether Japan can attain its target of bringing the primary balance back to the black in 2020 while active efforts were little seen, either, for salvaging the ailing social security system amid the ongoing aging of society.

The Genron NPO policy performance reviews were launched in 2004, targeting the then administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The independent think tank has examined the policy performance of the current Abe administration, inaugurated in December 2012, three times, the first time in 2013, the second in 2014 and again in the latest study.

The latest review was made under certain evaluation criteria to examine how the government tried to implement the 71 items of election pledges made to the people since the inauguration of the Abe administration and whether the pledges were on course to being achieved. When the pledges failed and revisions were made, or when the government implemented measures not mentioned in the pledges, the study evaluated whether the revised or newly prepared policies were explained to the people. If the explanations were insufficient, a rating was reduced for the policy involved.

Ratings were reduced for 12 policy items this time for lack of a full explanation to the people. As the current Abe administration entered its fourth year Dec. 26, the greater part of its policy measures are at a stage toward realization. This means that the government's policy measures should be examined on the basis of results from now on.

Of the 71 items under review this time, 16 policy areas received higher ratings compared to the previous year's results. A favorable rating was given to the government's effort to achieve a successful conclusion to the TPP initiative because Japan played an active role in the final stage of negotiations. The government's policy of enhancing Japan's defense preparedness was also favorably evaluated following the passage of a series of national security-related bills through the Diet in September. But the rating was lowered for lack of a full explanation about the new measures to the people.

As to the government's Abenomics economic policy mix, which has been high on its policy list, the study concluded that it would be difficult to achieve the economic growth target and Japan's goal on the price increase rate if the situation remains unchanged. Evaluations were also lowered even for policy areas where some progress was made, among them the government's policy of reducing acreage under cultivation and efforts to streamline the administrative system, when the policy objectives involved were revised or became ambiguous, or when explanations to the people were insufficient.

Ratings were unchanged for 34 policy items in the latest review.

The latest study focused mainly on the manifesto campaign pledges prepared by the ruling LDP before the Lower House general election in 2014. But these promises were mostly abstract and the policy targets or goals mentioned there were difficult to assess. Even when promises were revised, no explanation was made to the people in some cases. Accordingly, the promises themselves were incomplete as a public pledge. Another unfavorable element in the policy performance review was the government's failure to present the existing policy measures as a package with a view to solving the challenges facing Japan and exploring Japan's future.

Evaluation Criteria

The achievements were evaluated under the following criteria:

policy measures that the Abe administration has yet to embark on, or it has abandoned during the past three years, but the reason is explained to the people
policy measures that the administration embarked on, and some progress was made, but difficulty is seen in achieving the goals
policy measures that were embarked on, and progress is being made on schedule at present, but it remains to be seen if the goals can be achieved; or policy measures that were embarked on, did not work well, modifications were made and efforts are being made toward achieving the goals; and the reason for the modifications is explained to the people
policy measures that the administration embarked on, and progress is being made on schedule at present, and achievement is in sight
policy goals attained in the past three year, or achievement is clearly in sight
Note: In all criteria, one point is deducted from the allocated score if the reason for modifications or the current state of progress is not explained appropriately to the people.

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