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Japan Government in More Strife over BOJ Board

Japanese government plans to fill one of two vacancies on the Bank of Japan's rate-setting policy board were thrown into disarray on Tuesday when the name of a nominee was leaked to the media, upsetting opposition lawmakers.

Japanese businessmen cross a road in front of the Bank of Japan Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007. The strength of Japan's economic growth is among the factors the central bank will weigh as its policy board begins a two-day meeting to decide whether to raise interest rates. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kambayashi)
Katsumi Kasahara
Japanese businessmen cross a road in front of the Bank of Japan Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007. The strength of Japan's economic growth is among the factors the central bank will weigh as its policy board begins a two-day meeting to decide whether to raise interest rates. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kambayashi)

A senior ruling party lawmaker told reporters a meeting to receive the government's nomination for a BOJ board member had been postponed because opposition members refused to attend, after Japanese media named hawkish economics professor Kazuhito Ikeo as the government's choice.

The lawmaker did not say how long the meeting would be delayed.

A split parliament means the government needs opposition endorsement for key appointments and it only managed to fill the post of governor and another deputy governor after a lengthy row.

The opposition was angered that the Nikkei business daily and other newspapers leaked the name of Ikeo, which Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga hinted was true.

"I expect the government will present to parliament a candidate as reported," Nukaga told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.

Asked about Ikeo, Nukaga said the Keio University academic had considerable insight and was well-versed in monetary policy.

The search for board members comes as the central bank faces rising food and energy prices and a slowing economy in the midst of global financial turmoil.

The central bank's nine-person policy board currently has two vacancies, including one for a deputy governor, leaving it seven board members with which to review rates.

"It will take time to pick an appropriate person" for deputy governor, Nukaga said in reference to the other vacancy, illustrating the difficulty the government has had coming up with candidates that can be endorsed in the current session of parliament that ends on June 15.

"Given the uncertainty in international financial conditions, we need to have another deputy governor working with the governor and his deputy," Nukaga said.

Ikeo has written numerous books on the banking sector and financial system and has served on several government panels such as the financial council and the fiscal system council.

An expert on banking, he has been skeptical of the effect of monetary easing on boosting growth -- a stance similar to many economists at the central bank.

Ikeo has said Japan's growth slowed in early 1990s because the government's huge spending on public works had helped unproductive constructors and other companies survive, blocking a shift of resources -- such as labor and capital-- from industries with low productivity to more efficient industries.

He has also said the role of central bank was no more than and no less than guarding against creating excess liquidity.

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