Aso: Poor English saved bankers from ’08 crisis


Japanese banks emerged from the 2008 global credit crisis largely unscathed because their senior employees did not speak English well enough to get into trouble, Finance Minister Taro Aso said.

Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said Friday that bankers in Japan had been unable to understand the complex financial instruments that were the undoing of major global lenders, and so had not purchased them.

“Many people fell prey to the dubious products, or so-called subprime loans. Japanese banks were not so much attracted to these products, compared with European banks,” Aso told a seminar in Tokyo.

“There was an American who said Japanese banks are healthy, but that’s not true at all. Managers of Japanese banks hardly understood English. That’s why they didn’t buy,” he explained.

Aso’s comments are the latest in a line of pronouncements that have raised eyebrows.

The onetime prime minister said in January that the elderly should be allowed to “hurry up and die” instead of costing the government money through expensive end-of-life medical care. In 2007, he had to apologize for a quip about patients with Alzheimer’s disease and for making light of flood damage in central Japan.

On Friday, Aso boasted that he had managed to keep his foot out of his mouth since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December. However, that claim was somewhat undermined when he initially got the prime minister’s name wrong.

“I have made no gaffes in the past half year, even as newspapers said the Aso administration’s — no, the Abe administration’s — biggest problem is Taro Aso’s gaffes,” he proclaimed.

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