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Abe deflects attack with economic growth vows

Kaieda lashes LDP on works spending

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda lashed out Wednesday at the massive ¥4.7 trillion public works spending package compiled by the Liberal Democratic Party.

In the first question-and-answer session in the Diet since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy speech Monday, Kaieda said, “the birth of the Abe administration means the LDP’s return to power led by legislators with vested interests.”

Kaieda, elected by the DPJ in December to lead the party’s recovery following its savage beating in the Lower House election, charged Abe with lacking any concrete growth strategies.

The Diet will soon deliberate on the Abe administration’s ¥13.1 trillion supplementary budget and ¥92 trillion regular fiscal 2013 budget.

Abe responded to Kaieda’s attack by saying the administration has vowed to steer Japan out of its decades of economic malaise and deflation by rebuilding government finances and implementing “growth strategies.”

“We will return to a strong economy with three arrows” Abe said. The three arrows in his quiver are “flexible spending,” “monetary policy” and “growth strategies.”

He expressed hope that the Bank of Japan will act quickly on achieving the 2 percent inflation target agreed to by the central bank and the government.

In his response to Kaieda’s question about criticism that Japan is trying to manipulate its currency in foreign exchange trading by forcing the Bank of Japan to take drastic monetary easing steps, Abe said his government’s policies are aimed at “beating deflation and realizing economic growth.”

While focusing on economic measures, Abe’s inaugural policy speech did not mention energy policy or relations with China, which have deteriorated due to the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Asked about energy policy by Kaieda, Abe repeated his position that the LDP will scrap the DPJ’s policy of trying to end all reliance on nuclear power by 2030.

“The DPJ’s nuclear phaseout policy lacked any concrete basis. We will review that and compile a responsible energy policy,” Abe said.

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, who also took part in the question-and-answer session, criticized the DPJ for worsening Japan’s ties with China.

What is supposed to be a mutually beneficial relationship has been turned into a “mutually losing relationship” by the DPJ when it was in power, Komura said.

Abe said the relationship with China is one of Japan’s most important and that strong differences must be overcome.

But asked about sovereignty issues by Takeo Hiranuma of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Abe repeated the government position that “no territorial disputes exist,” meaning Japan’s sovereignty over the islets are firm and undisputable.

Touching on Japan’s possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, which divides the LDP because the party relies heavily on the farm vote, Abe stated again that the administration will not take part if all tariffs have to be removed without exception.

Information from Kyodo added

Cooperation builds

Kyodo

The Liberal Democratic Party-led administration and the Democratic Party of Japan agreed Wednesday to scrap a rule that prevents the government from selecting people for such positions as the Bank of Japan governor if their name gets reported in advance by the media.

The move signals further cooperation in the Diet between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling LDP and the opposition camp in choosing the central bank’s next chief, who will play a key role in boosting the struggling economy and fighting deflation after Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa steps down in April.

The agreement to abolish the rule, which was set in 2007 under an effort by the DPJ, came at a meeting between the Diet affairs heads of the LDP and the DPJ.

Government nominations for certain positions, including executive posts for such bodies as nuclear and financial regulators, must be approved by both Diet chambers.

The LDP and DPJ lawmakers also agreed to simplify the nomination process. The revised rule is expected to take effect in early February after being discussed by the heads of the steering committees of the two Diet chambers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested that Abe may inform opposition parties of his choice for the next BOJ chief at a meeting for ruling and opposition parties to exchange views before presenting the name to the Diet.

“We are considering measures that could win the approval of opposition parties,” Suga told reporters.

Shirakawa will end his five-year stint in April, and Abe has said his successor must fully understand the prime minister’s economic policy, characterized by aggressive monetary easing to achieve a 2 percent inflation target.