Leaders of the nation’s four major economic organizations on Jan. 6 warned that the economy will remain sluggish this year unless the government embarks on a clear course toward full-scale reform.At the same time, the leaders said they are not so worried about the so-called “Japan-passing” trend whereby countries exclude Japan from new business relationships. They believe Asian nations still expect Japan to play a major role in the region’s prosperity.”The Japanese economy will show a steady recovery in the January-March period but will drop again after April when the consumption tax rate will be raised (from the current 3 percent to 5 percent),” said Jiro Ushio, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai). “Financial markets (in Japan) have been sluggish because of other countries’ disappointment over Japan’s slow progress in reform. “But the situation will improve if Japan shows during the regular Diet session clearly and concretely that it will conduct reform.”Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), called on the government to place top priority on deregulation and administrative reform. He said that implementing such measures would make it easier to tackle other problem areas.Said Kosaku Inaba, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “This year will be a year of action, not of slogans. But I cannot be very optimistic (about how much will be done).”Jiro Nemoto, president of the Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations (Nikkeiren), also predicted that Japan will post low economic growth this year, adding that each industry must overcome the difficult times by deregulating itself and creating new businesses. “The key (to successful reform) is political stability and strong political leadership,” Nemoto said, urging different political parties to cooperate more and take stronger control of the bureaucracy. Ushio said Japanese politicians should have more chances to meet their counterparts abroad so that they can learn how other leaders make decisions and put them into practice.

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