Business leaders call for action plan on growth

Kyodo

As the new year begins, business leaders are calling for the government to take concrete steps to boost growth and help the economy recover from last March’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

In their New Year’s messages, the heads of Keidanren, the nation’s largest business lobby, and the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) shared the view that the tax and social security systems must be reformed to achieve economic sustainability and improve’s the nation’s fiscal health.

Together with the head of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, they also urged companies to increase their competitiveness even in the face of the strong yen and limited power supplies.

“We would like to make this year a year of ‘action,’ to take a step forward toward new growth from rebuilding and recovery,” Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura said in a statement.

He also urged the main political parties to overcome their differences for the sake of the people and the nation, and to focus on enacting reforms rather than bickering among themselves.

“We seek an environment in which businesses can exercise their power to the fullest extent,” said Yonekura, calling for a thorough review of taxation, energy and environment policies, and moves to stem the yen’s steep appreciation.

Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of Keizai Doyukai, also said the government must simultaneously reform the social security and tax systems to cut expenditures, create sustainable systems and put the state’s tattered finances back on the right track.

“Amid uncertainties about the future, there are risks in tackling issues that have been left untouched. But with the global paradigm greatly shifting today, we must realize that the risks involved in not acting are bigger than the risks involved in trying out new things,” he said.

Hasegawa also called on businesses to maintain strong corporate governance.

“It is crucial that we review our own governance system and continue to make necessary improvements,” he said.

The remarks come after Olympus Corp. admitted last year that it covered up ¥117.7 billion in investment losses dating back to the 1990s, and after the former chairman of Daio Paper Corp. was charged with embezzling billions of yen in company money he allegedly lost while gambling at casinos.

Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Tadashi Okamura expressed concerns about the hollowing out of domestic industries due to the strong yen, and about the impact of the heavy flooding Thailand experienced last year, among other factors.

“It is necessary to strengthen small businesses as a core of our growth strategy, and we would like to strongly lobby the government to do so,” Okamura said.

Regarding the government’s decision to join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Okamura said the government “should assert what must be protected and maximize the national interest” when taking part in the free-trade talks.

“We ask the government to be fully prepared so that it can strongly negotiate (with the other TPP countries),” he said.