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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