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Fleshing out Abenomics is PM's task as Diet starts 53-day session

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Diet convened a 53-day extraordinary session Tuesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aiming to pass bills to supplement his "Abenomics" policies to fight chronic deflation.

The session, which comes after Abe's ruling coalition regained full parliamentary control in July's House of Councillors election, will revolve around debates on policies such as encouraging companies to boost investment and streamline industries to make them more globally competitive.

Abe will also push ahead with a bill to set up a ministerial council to help quickly respond to foreign and security issues, apparently considering the security environment in Northeast Asia, where North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions and the assertive maritime policy of China remain of concern.

"Economic recovery has yet to be truly felt throughout the country. We are only halfway through our efforts to beat persistent deflation," Abe said in his speech delivered at the opening of the session.

Earlier in the day, Abe told lawmakers of his Liberal Democratic Party that he wants them to tackle the challenges of "changing regulations and taxation on the farming and medical businesses as well as on employment systems."

Abe will answer questions from ruling and opposition lawmakers in both chambers of parliament for three days starting Wednesday. The extraordinary session is scheduled to end Dec. 6.

Opposition parties are likely to grill Abe on issues ranging from the toxic water problem at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and ongoing U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations to his recent decision to raise Japan's sales tax rate from April.

The government is expected to submit a total of 23 bills to the Diet during the session, having narrowed down choices for a relatively short session due to the need to draft within December the budget for the next fiscal year from April.

The Diet will open again in January for an ordinary session that normally lasts through June.

For its economic growth strategy, the government will press for bills to establish special economic zones to boost business investment through deregulation. The policy is partly aimed at supporting Tokyo's hosting of the 2020 Summer Olympics in the areas of infrastructure development and other projects.

Abe's government unveiled in June a set of policy measures to stimulate growth as part of Abenomics, which also includes monetary and fiscal stimulus. The announcement fell short of meeting market expectations, however, as it did not specify any corporate tax cut or steps to whet the appetite for capital spending.

In the latest session, the Diet will consider some bills resubmitted by the government after it ran out of time to debate them at the end of the last ordinary session in June, including a bill to implement reforms in the country's power industry dominated by regional monopolies.

On security, Abe wants the Diet to enact a bill to set up a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, in an attempt to address the lengthy process of government decision-making in the fields of national security and foreign affairs.

The ruling coalition led by the LDP is planning to set up a special committee to promptly deliberate the bill.

Some controversy is expected to surround a planned bill to bolster the protection of national secrets.

It is designed to impose stricter punishments on individuals, particularly civil servants, leaking classified information. The move has triggered criticism that such a law could restrict people's constitutional right to know as well as the freedom of the press.

The LDP is seeking cooperation from its junior coalition partner, the New Komito party, but it has shown reluctance to jointly submit the bill, according to ruling lawmakers.

==Kyodo

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/131015/fleshing-out-abenomics-pms-task-diet-starts-53-day-ses