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ReutersEconomy57 minutes ago (Oct 03, 2021 03:35AM ET)

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Economics Minister Akira Amari speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan will compile a considerably large extra budget immediately after a looming general election to ease the economic blow of the pandemic and boost long-term growth in key areas, a ruling party heavyweight said on Sunday.

“What must be tackled at first is vaccinations. This is the strongest of coronavirus measures,” Akira Amari, newly appointed secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told public broadcaster NHK’s political debate programme.

Japan should boost its vaccination rate from the current 60%to 70% to 80%, levels seen as easing anxiety among the public, Amari said.

“We have responded with various measures by tapping emergency budget reserves. Now that the reserves are drying up, we will compile a considerably large extra budget immediately after the election.”

Given dire public finances, Japan’s incoming prime minister, Fumio Kishida, may have little choice but to sell more government bonds to fund a pandemic-relief package that he said would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Amari, a former economy minister seen as a key ally of Japan’s longest-serving premier, Shinzo Abe, said the supplementary budget would focus on the environment, digital and infrastructure.

He said the government may consider extending job subsidies, but Keiichi Ishii, his counterpart at the LDP’s small coalition partner Komeito called for cash payments of 100,000 yen ($900) to everyone up to 18 years old, or roughly 20 million people.

Kishida, a former foreign minister, won the LDP’s leadership race on Wednesday and is expected to be elected prime minister in parliament on Monday, replacing Yoshihide Suga, by virtue of the party’s majority in the lower house. He is expected to name his cabinet later in the day.

The general election must be held by Nov. 28.

Seiko Noda, who ran against Kishida, is likely to get a ministerial post, Kyodo news said on Sunday, a move in line with Kishida’s aim of having female lawmakers make up for 30% or more of his cabinet.

The new leader is set to keep Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi – younger brother of Abe – and Education Minister and Abe ally Koichi Hagiuda in his cabinet, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

Finance Minister Taro Aso’s brother-in-law, Shunichi Suzuki, is set to replace him, media reported.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is set to retain his post, while Hirokazu Matsuno, an education minister in Abe’s cabinet, is set to become chief cabinet secretary.

Tetsuo Saito, Komeito’s number two, is likely to be named transport minister, replacing fellow Komeito lawmaker Kazuyoshi Akaba, media reported.

($1 = 111.0500 yen)

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