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Sunday, July 14, 2002


Rare thinker in LDP's top ranks


In his July 1 article, "Scapegoat seekers fuel nation's decline," my colleague Jean-Pierre Lehman complains about Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma for failing to convey his views on Japan's economic problems. Lehman concludes that the man may have no views to begin with and is yet another reason for Japan's economic paralysis.

In fact, Hiranuma is far and away one of Japan's more interesting politicians. He is a thinker and well-educated, something rare in the top ranks of the Liberal Democratic Party. He realizes how chronic lack of domestic demand is crushing this economy and has for some time been a key member in the LDP grouping advocating greatly expanded government spending to pull Japan out of its current slump. As minister in the antigovernment-spending Koizumi Cabinet, he must keep these views largely to himself, but they emerge from time to time in the ministry's policy initiatives.

Contrary to Lehman's thesis, Hiranuma is absolutely right in realizing that an upward revaluation of the Chinese currency is the only way Japan, and the rest of the world, can hope to compete with China's resurgent economy, in almost exactly the same way that yen appreciation was the only answer to Japan's export thrust in the early 1980s.

Hiranuma belongs to the LDP rightwing, which generally is rather suspicious of China. This could underlie his recent call for India to be included in any future Japan-Southeast Asian economic grouping. Like them or not, Hiranuma's views are very well-formed and they could be extremely relevant if and when the Koizumi administration collapses.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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