BOJ’s newest board member Sakurai to cement Kuroda’s majority


The Diet approved Makoto Sakurai as a Bank of Japan board member Wednesday, a move expected to strengthen Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda’s support on the board.

Sakurai is an international finance researcher with ties to reflationalists such as Koichi Hamada, an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was confirmed by the Upper House on Wednesday and will take his seat starting at the April policy meeting, replacing Sayuri Shirai, who dissented in January and is the only woman currently on the board.

The decision means that Abe has appointed six of the board’s nine members. It shores up support for Kuroda to continue with the current policy direction, after the introduction of a negative rate policy in January passed by a bare majority, and with inflation still nowhere near the bank’s 2 percent target.

“He will be a member of the BOJ committee friendly in general to Abenomics and Mr. Kuroda, yet with calm, objective eyes,” Hamada wrote of Sakurai in an email to Bloomberg on Tuesday. Hamada said he has known Sakurai for about 40 years and co-wrote “International Transmission of Stagflation Under Fixed and Flexible Exchange Rates” with him.

Sakurai, 70, in a report last month indicated his support for the BOJ’s asset-purchase program and recent adoption of a negative rate policy.

“Financial institutions are coping with negative rates quickly, so it’s likely that this will bring very different positive impacts from quantitative easing,” Sakurai wrote in the Feb. 26 report. “Stripping out the impact of oil prices, CPI is rising more than 1 percent so we can say 60 percent or 70 percent of the job is done for ending deflation.”

He was also supportive of monetary easing in the past, being listed as a member of an “emergency proposal” compiled by lawmaker Kozo Yamamoto to stop the BOJ from ending a zero interest rate policy in 2000. “I think he will basically follow the Kuroda line” on the board, Yamamoto said earlier this month, after the nomination.

Sakurai graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Chuo University in 1970 and started working at the Export-Import Bank of Japan in 1976, according to a government biography obtained by Bloomberg.

He was a researcher at Yale University’s Economic Growth Center in the early 1980s, and then was at the Ministry of Finance’s policy research institute. From 1992, he was head of the international finance research center at what is now the MS&AD Research Institute. In 2007, he founded Sakurai and Associates.

The new board member is little known by some market economists who follow the BOJ.

“I don’t know him — I’ve just never heard of him,” Atsushi Takeuchi, an economist at the Japan Center for Economic Research and a former BOJ official, said soon after the nomination.

“I have no idea about Sakurai,” said Yuji Shimanaka, an economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley. “He must be supportive of Kuroda’s view since Abe’s government nominated him,” Shimanaka, who has been a market economist for more than three decades, said after the nomination was announced.