June 22, 2020 / 12:20 PM / 16 days ago

Japan to promote digitalisation in this year's long-term policy framework

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s government will focus on promoting digitalisation to more efficiently cope with challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, an outline of this year’s long-term economic policy framework showed on Monday.

The government will also focus on measures to gradually reopen the economy such as helping to keep businesses alive and maintaining the health of Japan’s banking system, according to the outline.

The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP), the government’s key economic panel, on Monday kicked off debate on this year’s long-term policy framework, which serves as a basis for compiling next fiscal year’s budget.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that from the public’s perspective, there was no time to waste in building a digital government and had instructed Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to do so. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura was tasked with working with ministries to compile the growth strategy.

“The government should go ahead with investing on its own while providing measures that stimulate further private-sector investment at the same time,” Nishimura told reporters after the meeting.

Nishimura said he sought to step up discussion about realising mid to long-term fiscal consolidation as well as economic revitalisation, which the panel’s four private-sector members had called for.

“When thinking about financial matters, support for those who are in a severe situation can’t be delayed,” Nishimura said, adding that it was important to give financial support to those in a “severe situation” due to the pandemic.

The government has pledged to spend a combined $2.2 trillion in two stimulus packages to combat the heavy blow from the pandemic.

The world’s third-largest economy, battered by lockdown measures to prevent the outbreak from spreading, slipped into recession in the first quarter and is seen suffering an annualised contraction of over 20% in April-June.

Abe has said Japan will resume fiscal reform once the economy is on a recovery path.

Reporting by Leika Kihara and Daniel Leussink; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Chizu Nomiyama

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