Japan PM Yoshihide Suga Retains Key Cabinet Official Linked to Integrated Resorts

Posted on: September 16, 2020, 10:32h. 

Last updated on: September 16, 2020, 01:40h.

The new Prime Minister of Japan —  Yoshihide Suga — is retaining a key cabinet official from his predecessor that is closely linked to the legalization of integrated resorts (IR).

Japan PM Yoshihide Suga
Yoshihide Suga bows to Emperor Naruhito during his inauguration as Japan’s next prime minister. (Image: Kyodo)

Suga was officially named on Wednesday as Shinzo Abe’s successor after Parliament, controlled by his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), voted in his favor. In his victory address, the newly minted Prime Minister pledged to carry on his predecessor’s policies, one being Abe’s wishes to bring Japan casino resorts.

Dubbed Abe’s “shadow Prime Minister” for long being his former boss’ right-hand man, Suga is known for his stubbornness and iron-fist approach.

Suga received 314 out of 465 votes in the National Diet’s House of Representatives, and 142 out of 240 votes in the House of Councilors.

Cabinet Carryovers

Of Suga’s first 20-member Cabinet, 11 were members of the last Abe administration who were either retained or shifted to new ministerial posts.

For the IR process, the most notable Cabinet position is that of Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Suga is keeping Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba in that role, a senior LDP lawmaker who has been at the forefront of legalizing commercial gambling.

Other notables being retained are Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Suga appointed Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, to defense minister, replacing Taro Kono.

Suga named Katsunobu Kato, a former health minister and finance official, to succeed him as chief Cabinet secretary.

Suga’s commitment to Abe policies is good news for the remaining casino operators still preparing to win one of the three forthcoming IR licenses. Earlier this month, Suga stated he believes the casino resorts will help increase leisure travel to Japan, a country long focused on business.

Japan is the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP. But tourism has played a much-reduced role in Japan’s economy compared with other G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK, and the US).   

Abe set a goal to welcome 60 million visitors annually by 2030. Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, and Nagasaki are the four remaining interested casino candidate cities. Those local governments, however, are delaying their IR bidding until the central government releases its final Basic Policy on casinos.

Submission Date Remains

Last month, Akaba announced that the central government was reviewing the possibility of delaying the integrated resort timeline.

“Some IR operators who have partnered with local governments are in a difficult situation due to the impact of the new coronavirus, and there have been opinions saying that the future is uncertain,” Akaba said last month.

Despite potential adjustments to the IR timeline, Akaba maintains that the July 30, 2021 deadline for prefectures and cities to submit their casino proposals to the central government for licensure stands firm.