Japan PM Suga says to compile basic policy on new digital agency by year-end

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday he wanted to compile a basic policy on a new digital agency by the end of this year and submit necessary bills to next year’s ordinary session of parliament.

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga poses for a picture following his press conference at LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2020. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Creating an agency to speed up the digitalisation of Japan’s outdated government administration has been a key pledge of Suga, who was elected premier last week.

While the government has made “digital transformation” its main policy plank this year, the switch has proved difficult due partly to a vertically structured bureaucracy that hampers efforts to use common platforms for administrative work.

“We need to make a digital agency as an organisation which will have a function of strong command power with personnel of high ability from public and private sectors, and lead digitalisation in the overall society,” Suga told ministers in a meeting.

“I want to accelerate discussions to do so, compile basic policy by the end of this year and submit necessary bills to next ordinary session of parliament.”

Suga said that setting up the digital agency would be a reform which would lead to a change in the nation’s economy and the society.

He pledged to make sweeping changes to overcome the digital woes, which were blamed for delaying delivery of cash payouts to help citizens weather the impact of the novel coronavirus.

The government aims to build a digital society based on “My number cards” for personal identification and improve digital administrative procedures, a government official told reporters after the meeting.

Japan’s digital transformation minister, Takuya Hirai, said in a twitter on Wednesday that he would launch a preparation team this month.

“Japan needs to raise its potential growth rate by digitalization,” said Takuto Murase, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Michael Perry