Jan 02, 2015

    Abe pledges structural reforms


    JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday pledged to carry out crucial structural reforms this year as part of his drive to kick-start the economy, while stressing that the country remained pacifist as he pursues his nationalist agenda.

    "This year, we will once again make the economy the foremost priority, delivering the warm winds of economic recovery to every corner of the nation," he said in his New Year statement, weeks after winning a landslide election.

    "We will decisively execute our growth strategy, carrying out economic (stimulus) measures at an early time," he said, referring to reforms such as deregulation in the energy and farm sectors.

    Since he first took office in December 2012, Mr Abe said he has tackled various issues, including revamping the country's education and social-security systems, and diplomatic and security policies.

    "All of the reforms I am pursuing are the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II, with very challenging roads ahead," he said.

    With a fresh voter mandate given by a general election victory last month, "this year I will push ahead with reforms even more boldly and with an even greater sense of speed".

    Mr Abe has embarked on a policy blitz - dubbed "Abenomics" - to reinvigorate the economy, with a vast government-spending and monetary-easing programme. The third "arrow" in his armoury is much-needed structural reforms.

    Abenomics has helped exporters by sending the yen sharply lower and boosted stocks. But Mr Abe's failure to implement some of the tough changes economists say are needed - freeing up the labour market and tackling an inefficient agricultural sector - has left him open to the charge that he is pursuing style over substance.

    His speech also noted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and that Japan - with "deep remorse" over its wartime atrocities - "has walked the path of a free and democratic nation and of a consistently peace-loving nation".

    His comments come as he seeks warmer ties with old foe China, with which Japan has been engaged in bitter territorial disputes in recent years.