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Friday, October 17, 2003

Japan Still On the Deflation Trail

Japan economy minister Takenaka tells us Japan will triumph over deflation. Just one last question: how? No, this isn't fair, he does offer some pointers. But it still remains to be seen what these actually mean in practice......

Heizo Takenaka, Japan's economy minister, said on Thursday that the country could overcome its persistent deflation because the central bank is working more closely with the government. The key reforming minister of Junichiro Koizumi's government said in an interview with the Financial Times that the co-operation followed the appointment of a new governor of the Bank of Japan in March.

On the eve of US president George W. Bush's visit to Tokyo, Mr Takenaka said the BoJ would aim to raise money supply growth from its current 2 per cent to between 3 per cent and 4 per cent. For its part the government would increase demand through deregulation and clean up the banking system so that the BoJ's looser monetary policy was transmitted to the economy as a whole. Mr Takenaka said: "By combining these two, our calculations say that we will be able to overcome deflation."His suggestion that the BoJ was co-operating with government policy comes after years in which many saw the central bank as a stubborn opponent of price stability............

With the economy growing in the second quarter at an annualised 3.9 per cent according to official statistics, now was the time to press home the advantage. The economy minister said: "We hope to create a virtuous circle."

Mr Takenaka praised Toshihiko Fukui, who became bank governor in March, suggesting that he was more determined than his predecessor to halt deflation. "Since Governor Fukui took office BoJ policy is, in my opinion, moving in a good direction," he said.

The consumer price index for August fell just 0.3 per cent from the previous year although, measured by the gross domestic product deflator, prices are still dropping by about 2.5 per cent a year.

Mr Takenaka said that, "even with the CPI nearing zero", the BoJ had signalled its commitment to easy monetary policy for as long as necessary. The BoJ was "contemplating right now" how to signal its long-term commitment to price stability, with some BoJ members advocating a reference rate, a goal just short of an inflation target, he said.
Source: Financial Times

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