Koizumi on the Cutting Edge
Is Japan’s Prime Minister the right person to finally lift the Japanese economy?
August 2, 2001
Junichiro Koizumi has won the July 29 general elections in Japan. But, in many ways, Mr. Koizumi is a rather unusual Japanese prime minister. However, with the country still stuck in economic crisis, it just might take atypical measures to turn around the fate of the world’s second-largest economic power. Our new Read My Lips feature takes a closer look at what Japan’s maverick promises, what challenges face him — and what others think of him.
What was your initial reaction after becoming Japan’s Prime Minister?
“It seems the earth is shaking.”
(Junichiro Koizumi, on his election against the will of the Liberal Democratic Party establishment, April 2001)
What are you planning to do?
“I will carry out reforms that no other parties have dared to touch.”
What is the underlying problem of Japan’s economy?
“Japan is called laissez faire or capitalist now — but it has a socialist financial structure.”
Why is your reform program so important?
“Japan will be in dire straits if we do not press ahead with structural reforms.”
Why does Koizumi’s fate matter to the rest of the world?
“Japan is the only country in Asia that can provide economic leadership — and an anchor of democratic political stability.”
(David Roche, Independent Strategy president, June 2001)
What was an unexpected result of Junichiro Koizumi’s rise to power?
“Mr. Koizumi is the wavy-haired eccentric who has gotten salarymen interested in politics again.”
(Wall Street Journal editorial, referring to Japan large corps of middle-class managers, June 2001)
What did others think about Koizumi’s nomination?
“We said farewell to the old-style LDP.”
(Veteran LDP member Kato Koichi, May 2001)
Mr. Prime Minister, won’t your reforms hit some people hard?
“Of course, there will be companies going bankrupt and people who will be unemployed.”
Why do you press ahead anyway?
“Do you think there will be fewer people out of jobs if we do not press ahead with reforms?”
What do you say to those who are likely to suffer?
“My fundamental philosophy is that you have to put up with pain today for tomorrow’s sake.”
How do Japanese people react to such promises?
“He says things very clearly — most politicians are ambiguous and fuzzy. His reforms may hurt my business, but I support him.”
(Japanese small business owner on Koizumi’s reforms, July 2001)
Do other people in Japan share Mr. Koizumi’s optimism?
“Koizumi could be like summertime fireworks — boom and he is finished.”
(Kenji Kobayashi, member of the Japanese Democratic Party, April 2001)
What is your reply, Prime Minister?
“That there’s opposition makes me feel it’s all the more worth doing.”
What is the hopeful scenario for Japan?
“If good intentions and enthusiasm were enough to solve macroeconomic problems, economic recovery would be just around the corner.”
(Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, on Koizumi’s reforms plans, July 2001)
What is the likely downside of Koizumi’s reform plan?
“Koizumi’s government is reform or bust. But it is dangerously likely that it will be ‘reform and bust’.”
(Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, July 2001)
Mr. Prime Minister, how do you see your own chances for success?
“My job is to carry out reforms that were taboo, that were not possible before. If the public gives me support of more than 50% — I can do it.”
Have Japanese politicians made such promises before?
“This is the third time Japanese people have had high expectations. Now we will see if those expectations will be betrayed.”
(Takayoshi Miyagawa, Japanese political analyst, July 2001)
How did you plan ahead for your own election campaign?
“I have absolutely no strategy for what to do with the media. On the contrary, the media are using me.”