Japan Finance Minister Naoto Kan: Sharp-Tongued and Battle-Ready

Article excerpt

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 Kan's appointment as Japan's new

finance minister lies as much in his reputation as a battler against

the country'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 Japan's struggling

economy. He faces the difficult task of stimulating the economy so as

to pull it out of recession while keeping Japan'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 August's elections has been to

wrench policy-setting powers away from ministry bureaucrats and give

them to elected officials. …