Thursday, January 07, 2010

Naoto Kan, Japan Finance minister, a politician with equal temperament

Left Naoto Kan, right Hirohisa Fujii

Naoto Kan is the new Finance minister of Japan. He
succeeds to minister Hirohisa Fujii who served 3
months before to leave, officially for health reasons,
unofficially because he is tired of Ozawa Ichiro
peddling with risk in his budget policies.

I sure will ask to Kan about Ozawa's major influence
when he comes to visit us at the Press club in Tokyo.

Fujii 's departure is the first resignation by a
member of the Hatoyama so called "center-left"
Cabinet, only about four months after its launch, and
it will likely be a fresh blow to Hatoyama, who has
recently seen a double-digit fall in public support
and the nation's economy struggling to move out of the
prolonged bad state of the economy.

Why Kan? "Deputy Prime Minister Kan was the No. 1
person in providing strong indirect support" for
drawing up the fiscal 2010 budget, Hatoyama answered.
Despite his involvement in the budget drafting
process, however, the 63-year-old Kan, who was
theDPJ's first leader about 10 years ago, does not
have in-depth experience of steering the economy.
Might be a problem indeed.

Kan told reporters that he had once declined to hold
the new post during talks with Hatoyama on Wednesday,
telling him, "There should be a more suitable person."
Kan said he eventually accepted the position following
Hatoyama's strong request. Kan, in charge as soon as
Thursday, will retain the posts of deputy prime
minister and minister for economic and fiscal policy.
With the appointment, Yoshito Sengoku, state minister
in charge of administrative reform, will concurrently
serve as state minister for national strategy, a post
currently held by Kan.

Kan said he wants to consider Japan's revitalization
"in a larger perspective," given that he is keeping
hold of the two posts, when asked by reporters at the
premier's office about his main tasks after becoming
finance chief.

Kan facing the deteriorating economic outlook, his
politician profile will be useful.

Kan, was Health and Welfare minister and former
Democratic Party of Japan president, chnaged the way
the government works as Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of State for National Policy and Economic and
Fiscal policy.

He’s earned the nicknames ‘Ira-Kan’ and ‘Fretful-Kan’
for his reputed short temper, but his experience with
tackling Japan’s notoriously intransigent bureaucracy
made him an obvious choice for many to oversee the
party’s policies and budget.

Born in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture as the son of
businessman, Kan graduated in 1970 from the Tokyo
Institute of Technology, and opened a patent office in
1974. He actively engaged in civic movements for
years and achieved a seat in the lower house in 1980
as a member of Socialist Democratic Federation (SDF)
through a grassroots environmental campaign. He
gained national popularity in 1996 when as health
minister he exposed the minister's responsibility for
the spread of tainted blood. At that time, he was a
member of a small party forming the ruling coalition
with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). His action
was completely unprecedented and was applauded by the
mainstream media and the public. Kan also wrote a
best-selling book Dai-jin ("Minister") in which he
writes that ministers should answer to the Emperor.

In 1998, he admitted that he failed to make payments
into the state pension scheme for ten months.
Although the amounts were relatively small, he left to
avoid hurting the party. Additionally, his image had
been hurt by the revelation of an affair with a
television newscaster. After Yukio Hatoyama resigned
as the leader of the party, Kan again took over the
position. In July 2003, the DPJ and the Liberal Party
led by Ichiro Ozawa agreed to form a uniformed
opposition party to prepare for the general election
that was anticipated to take place in the fall.

During the campaign of the election of 2003, the DPJ
called the election as the choice of the government
between the ruling LDP-bloc and the DPJ, with Kan
being presented as the alternative candidate to then
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. His face was used
as the trademark of the campaign against the LDP.
However, in 2004, Kan was accused of unpaid annuities
and forced to again resign the position of leader. On
May 10 2004, he officially announced his resignation.

In mid-October 2005, Kan, who turned 60 in 2006,
proposed the creation of a new political party to be
called the "Dankai (baby boomer) Party." The initial
intent of the party was to offer places of activity
for the Japanese baby boomers - 2.7 million of whom
began to retire en masse in 2007. His hobby is Go, and
he has a wife and two sons, and lives in Tokyo.

On January 6, 2010, he was picked by Prime Minister
Yukio Hatoyama to be the Finance Minister, assuming
the post in addition to deputy prime minister. His
previous statements indicated he would favor the Bank
of Japan to ease monetary policy. "I am advocating a
weak yen to a certain extent," he said publicly in
December 2009.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Kan has said he wants
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to take on a more
prominent international role. With Prime Minister
Yukio Hatoyama having been criticised for dithering in
the DPJ’s early months, Kan has looked decisive and
ready to lead.

It’s early days yet, but if the ruling party’s ratings
continue to slide, would the DPJ be willing to follow
in the well-trodden footsteps of the opposition
Liberal Democratic Party and change leaders after only
a year? Next year’s upper house elections, where the
DPJ hopes to secure enough seats to ensure that it
doesn’t depend on coalition partners, could be a good
test. (Sources: agencies, blogs, wiki, AG quotes)

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