Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was in a celebratory mood after the inauguration of his new cabinet, was suddenly thrown cold water by his “own people. The person who took the bite was Koji Yano, the vice-minister of the Ministry of Finance, which is home to some of the best bureaucrats in Japan.
Why did the head of the “most powerful government agency” take the unusual step of criticizing the administration? Some in the ruling party are concerned about the background and are suggesting that he be removed.
“Some in the ruling party are wondering why the government has taken such an unusual step, which could be seen as a criticism of the administration. “Distributing money in the form of a fixed-amount benefit of 100,000 yen will only lead to the death of the Japanese economy as a whole.
“Is it really necessary to take massive economic measures? We need to carefully examine the costs and negative effects of such measures.
“The fact that we are still engaged in a ‘war of baramaki’ at this point in time is not just behind the times, but two lapses behind the common sense of the West.
A top official of the Ministry of Finance contributed an article to the November issue of the monthly magazine Bungeishunju (on sale October 8, 2021) in which he harshly criticized the fiscal policy of the Kishida administration.
Needless to say, he had in mind the pledges made by Prime Minister Kishida in the LDP presidential election at the end of September for “economic measures worth several trillion yen,” and the insistence of Sanae Takaichi, the party’s policy chief, on “freezing the target of achieving a surplus in the primary budget balance for a limited period. There was also anger at the opposition parties who were promising to reduce the consumption tax rate, etc., ahead of the lower house election in late October.
“While it is understandable that the head of the Ministry of Finance, which aims for “sound public finances,” would be angry at the politicians’ claims, the ruling and opposition parties are all saying, “Why now? But the question on the minds of the ruling and opposition parties is, “Why now? If we count backwards from the date of the magazine’s release, we can be sure that the manuscript was completed in the midst of the presidential election.
Who in the world is Mr. Yano?
A reporter for a national newspaper in charge of the Ministry of Finance said, “Mr. Yano is one of the foremost fiscal reconstructionists in the history of the Ministry of Finance. When Mr. Yano joined the former Ministry of Finance in 1985, he became the first postwar administrative vice-minister with a degree from Hitotsubashi University in a ministry where graduates from Tokyo University were the mainstream. However, it is not as if he was on the “vice-ministerial course” from the time he joined the ministry. His peers included Kenshi Fujii, former deputy chief cabinet secretary of the National Tax Agency, who was nicknamed “Colonel” from his youth, and Kenji Okamura, former finance minister.
A reporter from the business section of a national newspaper who knows Mr. Yano describes his character.
“He is a man with a strong work ethic, a stoic in clothes. When it comes to fiscal reconstruction, he is something of a ‘fundamentalist.
The same reporter, however, has seen a different side of him in the politics section.
“When he met former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, his character changed to an aggressive one.
What does this mean?
For three years from 2012, Mr. Yano supported Chief Cabinet Secretary Kan as his secretary in the Shinzo Abe administration. Mr. Yano was favored by Mr. Kan, who wielded a lot of power in the course of his long-term administration, and his words and actions were said to be “above the level of influential Diet members,” according to a mid-level official at the Ministry of Finance. It is said that it was during this period that he began to privately criticize members of the opposition party and the ruling party whose policies he disagreed with.
After returning to the Ministry of Finance after finishing his role as secretary-general, he rose through the ranks to become chief cabinet secretary, director of the Taxation Bureau, and director general of the Budget and Accounting Bureau, and in July this year, he finally took the top administrative position. One of the former officials of the Ministry of Finance said, “Yano was able to become the vice minister because of the power of former Prime Minister Kan.
Perhaps because of this relationship, it is rumored that the flap over Mr. Yano’s contribution to the report was drawn up by former Prime Minister Kan, who had become a political rival of Prime Minister Kishida.
He said, “We will discuss and communicate with each other, and the government and the ruling party will work together to implement policies. Once we have decided on a direction, we will need the cooperation of all parties.
On October 10, Prime Minister Kishida expressed his displeasure at the fangs pointed at him. Some within the Ministry of Finance are defending his comments, saying, “I was expressing my personal opinion as a general policy argument for fiscal soundness,” said Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki. “I don’t mean to be rude. It is ridiculous to insist on the basic financial balance and not help those in need,” said Mr. Koichi, chairman of the Policy Research Council.
“I think Vice-Minister Yano felt that he could not put the nail in the coffin of the ruling and opposition parties’ rose-tinted policies unless he did so before the general election. But from the ruling party’s point of view, ‘If they release this kind of thing before the election, it will appear that there is no governance within the administration. Not a few people are pissed off.
While one former cabinet minister expressed his understanding of the move by the “fundamentalist,” who is known for his blunt words and actions, he also said that he believes that after the general election, there will be more calls for his removal. The reason why the LDP did not pursue Mr. Yano severely before the general election was because they feared that he would be exposed as a “scary politician” who would be ostracized as soon as he spoke out against the government.
Incidentally, there is another person who joined the ministry at the same time as Yano who was said to be a candidate for vice-minister: Tetsuo Kabe, who retired as Commissioner of the National Tax Agency in July.
He joined the former Ministry of Finance after graduating from Komaba High School attached to Tsukuba University and the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law. He is one of the elite of the elite who have steadily worked their way up through the ranks of the “high road” in the field of public accounting, serving as Chief Accountant, Director of the General Affairs Division of the Public Accountant Bureau, and Deputy Director General of the Public Accountant Bureau. Mr. Kabe’s wife is the younger sister of Prime Minister Kishida.
Kishida, whose relatives include politicians from the former Ministry of Finance such as former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and House of Representatives member Yoichi Miyazawa, was once harshly criticized on the Internet as a “dog of the Ministry of Finance. When asked about this in his live-streaming of the presidential election, the prime minister replied, “To be honest, I don’t know why. I’m tilting my head.
Now that the bureaucratic “discovery” that was pointed out during the Abe administration is out of sight, will Prime Minister Kishida be able to persuade the head of the “most powerful government agency” to implement large-scale economic measures? Or will he be stigmatized as a “dog” and give in? The game is already up for grabs, and the fate of the administration may depend on it.
Reporting and writing by： Kenichi Ogura
Director of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Photo: AFLO： AFLO