• Kyodo

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In a move likely to incur criticism, trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Sunday said it was “outrageous” that Japan’s credit rating is lower than that of Botswana, where “about half the population are AIDS patients.”

Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade and industry, made the remark in a speech he gave in Akita as he lashed out against the decision last month by Moody’s Investors Service Inc. to lower the credit rating on Japanese government bonds by two notches to A2.

The move left Japan five notches below the U.S.-based private rating firm’s highest triple-A rating. The nation is now in the league of Cyprus, Greece and Israel, and comes in beneath Botswana, which has a domestic currency government bond rating of A1.

“The rating on Japanese government bonds is now lower than government bonds of Botswana. About half of the people of Botswana are AIDS patients, and it is outrageous that Japan is rated lower than such a country,” Hiranuma said.

United Nations statistics show that 35.8 percent of Botswana’s population between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with HIV.

Hiranuma’s comment apparently reflects Japan’s government leaders’ growing frustration with the nation’s recent downgrades by foreign credit rating agencies.

The trade minister went on to complain that Japan was ranked lower than the southern African nation “even though Japan is the largest aid donor to Botswana.”

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