Monday, February 9, 2009

Just a flesh wound

Speaking in the lower house's budget committee on Monday, Aso Taro said, "If you compare our economic conditions to other countries, our wounds are shallow."

Naturally I immediately thought of nothing so much as this:

I think Jun Okumura is on to something when he writes that the prime minister isn't a "total nincompoop," just in his own world.

After the latest opinion polls, he will no doubt retreat further into his private world.

But seriously, it is hard to square Mr. Aso's optimism with the bleak picture provided by analysts like Claus Vistesen at Japan Economy Watch — and the bleak reality that ordinary Japanese now face.

Naturally Mr. Aso is going to be optimistic. I would expect nothing else from him or any elected official, certainly not from a prime minister with an approval rating heading into the single digits. But maybe, just maybe, there might be some political benefit in acknowledging that Japan will not miracuously escape its recession, that Mr. Aso is remotely aware that life is hard and getting hard for his people. Of course, at that point he would also have to provide some plan to get out of the mess. Optimism, it seems, is a substitute for policy.

Given the haste with which Mr. Aso condemned the "Buy American" provision in the US stimulus package, it seems that Mr. Aso's economic recovery plan basically means buy time in the hope that the US somehow manages to restart its economy, preferably before September.


Our Man in Abiko said...

I say Tobias, lovely job. Our Man approves. Let's have more.

RMilner said...

Wasn't it recently announced that Japan had been in recession since December 2007?

The stream of bad company results (Sony, Toyota, Nissan) and things such as Pioneer getting out of TV manufacturing are proof that things are bad.

Noah said...

Hey Rebecca! Nice to see you! What's your email these days? :-)

As for Aso, when you are leader of the world's second-largest economy in a time of rapidly-developing major crisis, and you choose to live in your own world, I'm not sure you can avoid being correctly labeled a "total nincompoop"...