Japan's New Cabinet

The following is some background on the main members of Japan's new Cabinet and the issues it will face:

New Framework:

Japan's bureaucracy will undergo a major shakeup early next month, with several ministries being combined to make the government less cumbersome and more under Cabinet control. Mori's Cabinet will oversee this new arrangement, and turf battles over the redefined responsibilities are likely. The new Cabinet has fewer posts than the previous one, and a new stress has been placed on crisis management, government reform and bolstering Japan's information technology.

Old Faces:

The most powerful portfolio again goes to Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart. Yohei Kono, another ruling party veteran, retains his post as foreign minister, the Cabinet's highest profile position. Ryutaro Hashimoto, like Miyazawa a former prime minister, assumes the government reform post and oversees policy on Okinawa, a southern Japanese state where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are based. Though not a member of Mori's previous Cabinet, Hashimoto heads the largest faction within the ruling party and is a central figure in Japanese politics.

Tough Issues:

The economy will likely remain the most important issue that the new Cabinet will face. Although statistics released this week showed Japan's economy is growing, its recovery from a decade-old downturn is still seen as shaky. Unemployment remains high, and consumer spending low.

Low Expectations?:

Since assuming the prime ministership in April after Keizo Obuchi suddenly suffered a stroke and died, Mori has proven to be one of Japan's least popular leaders. He narrowly survived a rebellion within his ruling party two weeks ago. Many analysts believe that if his support ratings don't improve, he could be ousted before parliamentary elections expected next summer.