‘Abenomics’ misses the point

To dignify Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s brand of economic bullying with a newly coined word is as facetious as it is to believe that it is anything new. It’s just the same old Liberal Democratic Party tire, retreaded and painted black with a shiny white rim to make it look like something different and worthwhile.

Barely two months in office, the Abe government has already deprived the Bank of Japan of any pretense that it operates independently. Meanwhile, it appears set to raise the cost of living, tax ordinary citizens into borderline hardship and slash social services across the board for those too weak to help themselves.

Far from elevating his policies to some pedestal for mere Japanese mortals to worship, we should not only question his true goals but also consider that his ijime (bullying) approach is the underlying constant in his party’s repertoire.

To suggest that “Abenomics” will lead Japan to either boom or bust glorifies the one-party approach amid some kind of democratic patina. Witness the recent court cases ruling that Lower House elections are unconstitutional because of vote-value disparities among the apportioned districts. The LDP has long manipulated the system to ensure its monopolistic dominance.

Abenomics is at best a glossed-over phrase meaning the same old self-serving approach, which merely helps the big businesses that Abe’s government benefits from. There is simply nothing new or courageous about Abenomics — it’s a smoke screen put up by the old guard. A more vigilant bastion of the long-term problems that impact on the Japanese economy would be hard to find. Abe’s economic platform is the same as it has always been.

One pillar that really needs shaking is the one that has cemented senior male leadership into the upper echelons of society so deeply that nobody seems to give it a second thought anymore. Middle generations of women in particular get burned at both ends — struggling to cope at home with children and the elderly and, at work, with spoiled husbands and males who couldn’t find the kitchen or laundry rooms in their own homes with a map.

The female working population is the central buttress of Japan’s workforce, although their chances of promotion prospects equal to men’s are next to zero. As a developed country that ranks at a low 101 out of 135 nations in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap,” Japan has a lot to answer for.

And that’s not likely to change anytime in the near future with a dyed-in-the-wool chauvinist political system. It’s a glaring irony that Japan’s nearest neighbor, South Korea, just elected its first female president.

Women are the most overqualified and least utilized power source in Japan. Could this be the thing that is stagnating Japan’s economy and relegating its potential to the minor leagues? Such a wasted resource is unforgivable, as our world can function well at home or at work only through the synergy of gender equality.

What’s needed to revive Japan’s business and morality is not Abenomics, but Womenomics.

david john
chikushino, fukuoka

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.