TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sees the return of a strong economy as the biggest priority for his third cabinet, established Wednesday after a ceremony at the Imperial Palace.
Abe was re-elected as prime minister in a special Diet session earlier that day, receiving 328 votes in the lower house. Katsuya Okada, acting head of opposition leader the Democratic Party of Japan, won 73 votes, while Kenji Eda from the Japan Innovation Party received 41.
"We must bring back a strong economy, which will serve as the foundation for engaging in various tasks," Abe told a news conference later that night.
"Backed by strong [the people's] trust, the cabinet will stand united in following through with our words and making policies a reality," he said. He intends to implement policies so the benefits of Abenomics and economic recovery can spread to smaller businesses and those outside large metropolitan areas.
"We also want to invest in our future generations, through energy-saving and hydrogen-friendly infrastructure, disaster prevention and other fields," he said.
Abe emphasized the necessity of postponing the consumption tax hike, initially scheduled for October 2015, for another year and a half in order to lift the country out of deflation.
He also pledged to slash the waiting list for child day care, and introduce a new support system for child-rearing families in April. "We'll follow through with bolstering social welfare, such as medical services and care for the elderly, as much as possible," he said.
The prime minister was also hopeful about rising wages. "We'll implement even more dramatic and speedy economic policies to further improve employment conditions," he pledged. "We will drastically reform regulations that weigh down the private sector."
Abe reiterated his dedication to curbing the population decline and reviving small-town Japan, as well as empowering women in society. Related bills will be submitted to the Diet next year.
He then called for a globally minded diplomatic strategy to secure Japan's national interests. In terms of amending the country's constitution, he said that he first wants to win the public's understanding.
Abe also commented on former Defense Minister Akinori Eto, who declined to remain in the post due to a political funds scandal. "Eto insisted on resigning to avoid delays in deliberations over legislation, so I honored his decision," he said. He added that former Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani was tapped to fill the role because he has "the knowledge and experience from dealing with national security policies for many years, and is also well-informed on the front-line operations of the Self-Defense Forces."
All other cabinet members remained in their posts, including deputy cabinet secretaries Katsunobu Kato, Hiroshige Seko and Kazuhiro Sugita, as well as the five special advisers to the prime minister.
Shunichi Yamaguchi, minister of state for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, will now be in charge of consumer affairs and food safety, a responsibility previously held by Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of promoting women's participation. But the prime minister judged that Arimura, who also oversees administrative and regulatory reform, had too much on her plate.
The cabinet will decide on a policy Saturday to encourage consumption and plans to finish drafting the fiscal 2015 budget in mid-January.