Friday, January 16, 2009

If I Didn’t Know Better, I’d Think the Aso Administration Was Preparing to Step Away from the 2-Trillion Yen Giveaway

The Fiscal System Council gives advice to the Finance Minister on the fiscal system and related matters. The Council consists of thirty full members as well as the hundreds of lesser worthies who populate its five sub-councils. Once a year, usually in January, the thirty wise men and women usually get together in a plenary session with the Finance Minister and his senior subordinates, take care of housekeeping matters, and let loose with whatever they have on their minds. Since there are no specific items on the agenda, no issues put forth by the MOF Minister for advice—what really counts are the twice-s-year (what else?) proposals the Fiscal System Sub-council issues—the plenary session usually passes with scant notice. Not so this year…

On 15 January, the Fiscal System Council met for their annual plenary session, where, as all the dailies reported (surely on page one) that the council members mostly agreed that the 2-trillion yen giveaway that the New Komeito forced on the Aso administration would be ineffective and that other more useful ways should be found to spend the money. We know this from the press conference by Taizo Nishimuro, the Council Chairman and former head of Toshiba, after the meeting. His statement (including who said what at the plenary session) as well as a summary of the proceedings should be available on the MOF website as soon as they’re ready.

MOF Minister Shoichi Nakagawa did his best to brush it off, claiming that nothing had been decided (true), that he hadn’t received any orders (true again). The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated that it was only the doing of three, four of the Council members. We’ll know if that’s true after MOF updates its website. In the meantime, I have to wonder, is this really happening without the blessing of the MOF bureaucracy and Keidanren?

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