1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan
l Although the number of new cases is staying still at a very low level throughout the nation, we observe a slightly increasing trend in the past few weeks. PM Kishida recently announced the following initiatives to contain and delay the next wave emerging:
Ø Advancing the timing of the booster shots for 31 million people (mostly medical community and senior people) by one to two months
Ø Distributing oral drugs such as Merck’s Molnupiravir and Pfizer’s oral drug within this month (Kishida directly called Pfizer’s CEO to secure 2 million pills)
Ø Extending the tight border control throughout the New Year basically continuing to close the border for foreigners
l This fiscal year’s supplemental budget in the amount of 36.0 trillion yen (US$313) was approved under the present extraordinary session of the Diet. This is to financially help families and individuals as well as SME including restaurants, izakayas/bars, ryokans/hotels and individual businesses that had been hit hard by the pandemic. Actual disbursement of grants and support fees are expected to begin early part of next year.
<As of 10 pm of December 23rd>
The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 1,731,283 and 18,397 respectively.
The number of new cases and death in the nation for the day was 295 and 2.
The cumulative number of cases of the Omicron variant infection as of yesterday is 249.
79.2% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 77.7% have done for the 2ndand 0.3% for the 3rd.
2. Nature Of Host Nataion’s Support To Be Changed Toward Strengthening Alliance With U.S.
The Kishida Administration announced on the 21st that it reached an agreement with the Biden Administration about Japan’s share of the cost of host-nation support for U.S. forces stationed in Japan and personnel expenses.
It is going to be 1,055 billion yen (US$9.2 billion) for five years from JFY2022 through 2026.
Japan’s host-nation support had been dubbed “Omoiyari Yosan” meaning financial support towards welfare benefits and allowances of US forces stationed in Japan.
The Kishida Administration this time called the budget as “Alliance strengthening budget”.
As an example, the budget is going to cover the cost of procuring a new fighter simulator that should be used by both Japanese and U.S. forces under the Japan-U.S. joint exercises.
The 5 year budget also increases Japan’s share of the cost of USFJ’s hangers for aircraft maintenance.
In the meantime, it was also agreed that Japan’s burden share of USFJ’s utility cost shall be gradually reduced.
3. Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning Demonstrated Onboard Fighter Operations Near Okinawa
The Ministry of Defense announced on the 21st that it observed on December 19 and 20 the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruising around 300 km off the coast of Kita Daitojima of Okinawa Pref., and conducting its onboard fighters’ taking-off and landing operations out of the aircraft carrier.
The Japanese Air Self Defense Force’s fighters scrambled to respond the Chinese fighters’ actions, the defense ministry reported.
4. Energy Saving Law To Be Amended To Obligate Large Emitters To Set CO2 Reduction Targets
Yomiuri reported on December 22 that the Japanese government is planning to amend the present Energy Saving Law to obligate large energy consuming companies to set a target of introducing CO2 free energy as early as 2023.
The definition of large energy consuming is the energy amount converted to1500 kilo litter or larger of petroleum annually.
At this moment, there are around 12,000 companies in Japan that fall under this large energy consuming companies category.
Under the governmental plan, those large emitters have to annually submit to the government a target of the share of introducing CO2 free energy sources such as renewable energy and or a target of shifting its peak energy consuming timing to “off-peak” timing.
Under the new law, the government is given authority to visit large emitters’ premises to inspect the way implementation to meet their individual targets is made, and if the government finds the implementation is not sufficient, it is allowed to order for improvement or even charge some penalty.
If some large emitters’ targets are ambitious enough and implementations are progressed reasonably, they may be eligible to apply for grant or subsidy related to green investment.
5. Osaka Announced Its Integrated Resort Plan
The Osaka Prefectural Government and the City of Osaka jointly announced on December 21 their plan to introduce Integrated Resort as follows:
Name of the resort: Osaka IR
Initial investment: 1,080 billion yen (US$ 9.2 billion)
Major investors: MGM 40%
Remaining 20% to be shared by Panasonic, Kansai Electric Power Co., JR West and 17 other companies
Operation start: Fall of 2029
Area space and facilities: Hotels (289,000㎡)
International Convention Center and Exhibition Halls (68,000 ㎡)
Casino (65,000 ㎡)
Number of visitors: around 20 million per year
Annual revenue: 520 billion yen (US$ 4.2 billion) out of which Casino is expected to yield 420 billion yen
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I wish you a happy holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2022!