• Kyodo


Bank of Japan Gov. Masaru Hayami said Friday that he intends to serve as head of the central bank “as long as my health permits” and expressed his displeasure at news reports from Tokyo that he plans to resign.

“I cannot understand why such reports came out,” he told reporters after arriving in Washington to attend a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers.

“As long as my health permits, I intend to serve my term,” Hayami said in a statement later in the day. “There is no change in this wish of mine.” Hayami’s five-year term ends March 19, 2003.

Despite his denials, the widespread news reports about his resignation plans, which made front-page headlines in all Japan’s major dailies, has raised doubts about his future ahead of the G7 meeting.

During the G7 talks, Japan hopes to win other industrialized nations’ trust in the new administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi by explaining economic measures planned by the government. However, the credibility of Hayami’s remarks at the meeting could be undermined if he is seen as a lame-duck because of the reports.

Questions are already being raised about new Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa, who also arrived in Washington to attend the G7 talks. Koizumi’s appointment of Shiokawa, a 79-year-old lawmaker who declared upon taking the job that he is no expert in economic affairs, has sent a wave of disappointment through financial markets and spurred sales of yen.

Shiokawa told reporters upon his arrival in Washington on Friday that he has not heard from Hayami about his plan to leave the BOJ.

In Tokyo, sources close to Hayami said Friday the BOJ chief intends to resign as early as May and that he has already conveyed his intentions to the prime minister’s office.

Hayami, 76, has apparently decided to step down due to his age and for health reasons.

But speculation is rife that the move is intended to take responsibility for his monetary policy management, which critics have called misguided for his unwillingness to keep interest rates virtually at zero.

Hayami is expected to officially tender his resignation after returning to Japan, the sources in Tokyo said.

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