Japan will face wealth distribution and fiscal discipline, says the new finance minister

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“Fiscal reconstruction is very important, and we have to continue to put up this flag,” said Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki in a group interview Thursday with The Wall Street Journal and other publications. He said the government needed to show a path toward improving its fiscal condition to maintain the trust of market participants and to preserve its ability to spend in response to crises such as disease outbreaks.

TOKYO–Japan’s new finance minister said he would continue to keep the nation’s high debt in mind while the new government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans a large stimulus program to overcome the impact of the pandemic.

Highlights

  • “My goal is to realize a new capitalism,” Mr. Kishida said. “The concept is to create a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution [of wealth] and a new post-pandemic society.”

  • Mr. Kishida, who took office Monday, has instructed his ministers to come up with an economic stimulus package worth hundreds of billion dollars. As part of his growth strategy, Mr. Kishida is focusing on distributing income to workers and smaller businesses and increasing the middle-class population.

The nation’s public debt is already the worst among major developed countries, totaling the equivalent of nearly $11 trillion as of the end of June, more than double Japan’s annual gross domestic product. However, some economists say it isn’t time to worry about that now, and they are calling on the government to delay or scrap plans to achieve a primary balance in its budget.

Mr. Suzuki refrained from giving details on what kind of distribution measures are necessary, but he said he would find a way to do so while working on improving the nation’s debt condition.

Primary balance means revenue and spending in the budget are balanced, excluding debt payments and new debt issuance.

Mr. Suzuki, 68 years old, on Monday became Japan’s finance minister, succeeding his brother-in-law, Taro Aso, who had held the post since December 2012.

Write to Megumi Fujikawa at megumi.fujikawa@wsj.com