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Jakarta Post

Abenomics in firing line as Japan prepares to vote

  • Yohanna Ririhena

    The Jakarta Post

Tokyo   /   Fri, December 12, 2014   /  11:39 am
Abenomics in firing line as Japan prepares to vote

Getting ready: A member of an election campaign team prepares leaflets for Japan'€™s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), showing Japan'€™s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also leader of the LDP, in Tokyo on Wednesday ahead of the Dec. 14 election for the lower house. The words read, '€œEconomic recovery, there is no other path'€. Reuters/Issei Kato

Sachiko Saito does not know what Abenomics means for her daily life.

The economic policy package introduced by Japan'€™s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the country'€™s seventh leader in six years, is familiar in name only.

'€œI don'€™t know where the package is going. Money is being disbursed but only big companies get the benefits,'€ Saito, a part-time seminar organizer working in Tokyo, told The Jakarta Post.

Despite lacking hope for Abenomics, the largest point of contention in Sunday'€™s election, Saito said she would go to the polls and vote for a candidate who represented her Prefecture of Chiba, east of Tokyo.

'€œI'€™m interested in seeing their campaign and will pick the best candidate who will represent our constituency and pay attention to our concerns,'€ she added.

Abe, who previously served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, has focused his second term in office on turning around Japan'€™s moribund economy with a recovery package covering three economic policies, termed '€œarrows'€: monetary easing measures, government spending on public works projects and a growth strategy.

In a sign that the package has yet to reach millions of people in Japan, people say they are not feeling the effects of recovery.

Saito said that to earn more, she had taken another part-time job.

Thirty-eight-year-old Tomoyuki Kurihara, a staff member at the Japan International Cooperation Center, said Abe'€™s policy had not improved his life because of commodity-price hikes. He said Abe should come up with more tangible ideas to spur growth in the economy.

'€œAbenomics sounds attractive but his third arrow'€™s growth strategy is missing. I'€™d like to see the tangible results of Abenomics,'€ he told the Post.

Kurihara will cast his ballot on Sunday, supporting this chosen candidate in the hope the opposition bloc continues to be critical and produces a detailed growth strategy to counter Abe'€™s weaknesses.

Japan'€™s Foreign Ministry international press division director Takako Ito defended Abe'€™s policy, saying there were evident signs of an economic recovery.

Stagnancy, bankruptcy and less jobs were features of the past, before Abe took power two years ago.

'€œIt was dark ages for university graduates. Now the economy is better and more jobs are available for them,'€ she said, adding the unemployment rate was now 3.6 percent, a decrease from 4.2 percent.

'€œIt'€™s a good rate among the G7 countries. The US has 5 percent.'€

The decision to place Japan as host of the 2020 Olympics has also changed the public mood. '€œPeople see good things coming. It'€™s changed their perception,'€ she added.

Foreign Press Center-Japan president Kiyotaka Akasaka acknowledged time was needed before ordinary people would feel the effects of Abenomics.

'€œEconomic growth is on the way. It'€™s most likely the current government will stay [in power]. If that'€™s the case, then Abenomics will continue and hopefully people will feel the impact,'€ he said.

'€œIt takes time for economic policy to bear fruit, but Shinzo Abe said we need to continue on in this way,'€ the ministry'€™s Ito added.

A survey by the Asahi newspaper on Thursday said the ruling coalition including Abe'€™s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would retain its two-thirds majority, allowing it to claim a new mandate for Abenomics, Reuters said.

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