WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The International Monetary Fund expects the Japanese economy to start growing again later this year on the strength of the recently approved record ¥15.4 trillion fiscal stimulus, a senior IMF official said Wednesday.

Charles Collyns, deputy director of research at the Washington-based lender, noted that Japanese authorities have been aggressive about propping up the economy amid the global financial crisis.

“We do think that the combination of these measures will help to support the Japanese economy, particularly once the fiscal spending measures come into play around the second half of this year,” he said at a news conference.

“So we do expect Japan, in fact, to register a couple of quarters of positive growth later this year,” Collyns said.

The remarks came after the IMF said in its biannual World Economic Outlook report unveiled earlier Wednesday that Japan’s economy will shrink 6.2 percent in 2009. The senior IMF official acknowledged Japan “has clearly been very hard hit by the global crisis.”

“Even though its financial system was not directly exposed to the subprime problems in the U.S., its manufacturing sector has been very grievously damaged by the collapse in global demand,” he said.

“There’s been a dramatic decline in industrial production and trade in Japan . . . a very strong decline in GDP in the fourth quarter,” he said, referring to Japan’s 12.1 percent contraction in real GDP.

Collyns attached importance to Japan instituting progrowth and fiscally friendly reforms for the future as the country is encumbered by a huge public debt.

“Japan already has a very high ratio of public debt to GDP, and it doesn’t have much more room to add to stimulus if things do not improve,” he said.

“But I think the authorities, therefore, need to try to find ways to combine their short-term efforts to support the economy with longer-term reforms that will help to boost prospects for growth and to boost the prospects for the fiscal consolidation that Japan will need once the current global recession is over,” he said.

His view is in line with the World Economic Outlook, which urged Japan to turn its attention to its fiscal health, as the series of fiscal stimulus steps that Tokyo has taken has expanded its deficit to an increasingly precarious level.

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