Does Koizumi have a broad reform agenda?

One of the prob­lems for those who, like me, hoped that Koizumi’s vic­to­ry in the recent elec­tions would give him a man­date for more coura­geous eco­nom­ic reform, is that there is real­ly no sign of such inten­tions from the man him­self.

He promised noth­ing except a ‘ref­er­en­dum’ on his postal reform—which is what he got, per­haps. But despite the strongest par­lia­men­tary major­i­ty in decades he seems curi­ous­ly unam­bi­tious for more reform.

In the short­est such speech in two decades, Mr Koizu­mi took just 14 min­utes to explain that he would seek ear­ly par­lia­men­tary approval of postal pri­vati­sa­tion. He would also press on with slow-mov­ing attempts to cut the civ­il ser­vice pay­roll, trans­fer spend­ing from cen­tral to local gov­ern­ment and reduce pub­lic spend­ing, he said.”(Finan­cial Times)

Buoyed by what The Econ­o­mist calls a ‘help­ful wind’ from Chi­na, the Japan­ese econ­o­my is look­ing stronger. But the ship remains slug­gish: Japan, which once cre­at­ed the sort of trade-led growth and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties that Chi­na is now cre­at­ing now lan­guish­es at the bot­tom of the trade-tables (158th on this list).

Per­haps, Gre­go­ry Clark has it right when he says that the Postal reform is not all it’s cracked up to be (”…almost any­one who saves or trans­fers mon­ey should know that the post office sys­tem is far cheap­er and bet­ter than pri­vate enter­prise. Indeed, much of the pres­sure for pri­va­ti­za­tion comes from the banks and oth­ers unable to com­pete”) and that the elec­tion was about pol­i­tics and the image of reform, not about the sub­stance.

One answer is that blunt attacks based on cold facts and dry fig­ures do not go down well here. Audi­ences pre­fer the warm and fuzzy—areas where Koizu­mi excels. Those cam­paign cars cir­cling the streets say­ing “Vote for me. I am healthy, will­ing and fight­ing a good fight” are exam­ples. No log­i­cal expla­na­tion of spe­cif­ic poli­cies is need­ed.” (Japan Times)

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