Saturday, December 14, 2013

Off-the-Cuff Assessments

…in response to an inquiry from a fixed-income investment advisor. A week has gone by and my comments were given free of charge so here they are for what they’re worth.

CLB: Ichiro Komatsu

The CLB matters with regard to collective defense because of its longstanding opinion against its constitutionality. Otherwise, it does not stand in the way of any other significant policy initiatives, including relaxation of the ban on arms exports.

On collective defense, Abe must swing the Komeito his way. Achieve that and the CLB bureaucracy will follow in due time. The print media will be divided between Yomiuri and Sankei on one hand and Asahi and Mainichi on the other while the audiovisual media will feature voices on both sides of the debate. In any case, the CLB will be a minor player.

BOJ: Kuroda.

Kuroda has long held firm views on monetary policy, views that Abe has set in motion by appointing him BOJ governor. This is the one appointment (and policy decision) that Abe cannot undo.

NSC: Shotaro Yachi

Yachi is the architect of the freedom and democracy concept—containing China, actually; Russia, whatever its authoritarian leanings, is not in the Japanese sights. The Abe administration’s foreign policy has for the most part performed admirably in that respect.

Personal Secretary: Isao Iijima

Iijima favored rapprochement with North Korea; Abe did not. But that was in 2002. His 2013 Pyongyang visit can only be interpreted as Abe’s attempt to gain leverage against South Korea and to a lesser extent China. The overall role that he is playing is a mystery to me, though. (Public communications, political strategy...too vague.) He is keeping his counsel, that’s for sure.

I have nothing to say about him except that he is a holdover from the DPJ administration
Post: Taizo Nishimura chairman and Yoshiyuki Izawa

Izawa is a Hatoyama cabinet appointment; four-years-and-out in December would makes sense. He was downgraded in the Japan Post parent company when Nishimura took over in June. Nishimuro (not Nishimura) is the elder statesman of the business establishment and go-to guy for the political class. More consolidator than initiator, he gets things done with minimum friction. No enemies, no criticism as far as I’m aware. He surely favors privatization but will move no more quickly or extensively than the Abe administration wants.

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