Japan finance minister Naoto Kan: sharp-tongued and battle-ready
Newly appointed Japan finance minister Naoto Kan faces the tough task of stimulating a struggling economy while keeping public debt under control. His role as deputy prime minister was to wrench policy powers away from bureaucrats.
The significance of Naoto Kanâ€™s appointment as Japanâ€™s new finance minister lies as much in his reputation as a battler against the countryâ€™s powerful bureaucrats as in his yet untested financial expertise.
Mr. Kan, the sharp-tongued deputy prime minister, took over Wednesday night from Hirohisa Fujii, who resigned after being hospitalized for exhaustion in the wake of a tough few weeks drawing up a record $1 trillion budget.
Kan, one of the few members of the new Democratic Party (DPJ) government with any cabinet experience, takes up his job at a delicate moment for Japanâ€™s struggling economy. He faces the difficult task of stimulating the economy so as to pull it out of recession while keeping Japanâ€™s massive public debt under control.
Kan has little financial or economic policymaking experience. His role in the cabinet since Yukio Hatoyama led the DPJ to victory in last Augustâ€™s elections has been to wrench policy-setting powers away from ministry bureaucrats and give them to elected officials.
Kan made name in exposing health scandal
That was a central plank in Mr. Hatoyamaâ€™s campaign platform. Kan made his name in Japanese politics over a decade ago as health minister, when he forced officials to release documents revealing that they had allowed over 1,000 hemophiliacs to receive HIV-tainted blood transfusions.
â€śIf I make meaningful changes at the [Finance] Ministry ,it would be a model for changing Kasumigaseki [the heart of Japanâ€™s bureaucracy] as a whole,â€ť Kan told reporters Thursday.
Kan made waves on his first day on the job by stating at his first press conference that he favored a weaker yen â€“ comments that caused the dollar to rise further against the Japanese currency.
He has also spoken forcefully in recent months in favor of stimulating the economy so as to avoid a double-dip recession. That contrasts with his predecessor, Mr. Fujii, who was known for his preference for fiscal restraint.