- banking - Japan - Yukio Hatoyama
AFP - He slams US-style globalisation as "the law of the jungle", wants a return to the samurai spirit and laments a Japan "wrecked by free markets" -- meet Shizuka Kamei, Japan's new banking minister.
The 72-year-old leader of the People's New Party -- one of the ruling Democratic Party's junior coalition partners -- has been put in charge of supervising Japan's vast financial services industry as well as postal affairs.
"I will give all I have to rebuild a Japan that has been wrecked by market fundamentalism and free-market economics," Kamei told reporters late Wednesday after joining new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's cabinet.
One of his first declarations was that he would seek to help small companies by allowing them a moratorium of several years on the repayment of loans -- remarks that sent banking shares lower on the stock market.
Kamei was a vociferous opponent of the outgoing Liberal Democratic Party's privatisation of the massive postal system -- the signature reform of former premier Junichiro Koizumi -- and is expected to move to reverse it.
"The fact that Japan's leading opponent of postal privatisation is now the head of postal affairs suggests the privatisation process will almost inevitably be reassessed," Barclays Capital economist Kyohei Morita said.
Kamei said Wednesday he did not aim to return to the past but to "try to rebuild the postal services in order to revitalise the local economies and help develop Japan's society and economy in a robust manner."
Japan broke up its sprawling post office in October 2007, creating a new commercial bank with the world's largest savings, starting a long privatisation process that was set to reshape the country's finance industry.
Under the privatisation plan, the banking and life insurance units were to be floated on the stock market sometime between 2010 and 2017, but that plan is now up in the air.
Kamei was expelled from the long-ruling LDP in 2005 by Koizumi, who picked Internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie to run against him.
Kamei -- a former top bureaucrat in the National Police Agency -- set up his own party and beat Horie, who just a few months later was indicted for securities fraud. He was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Kamei, who witnessed the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, was once tasked with tracking the Japanese Red Army extremists who carried out a series of hijackings and violence on embassies abroad in the 1970s and 1980s.
He is also an admirer of the Cuban revolution and has written a leaflet opposing the death penalty.
In 2007, he backed former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori's bid to win a seat in Japan's upper house of parliament while the ex-strongman was under house arrest in Chile.
At the time Kamei suggested Fujimori was a victim of political persecution, describing him as the "last samurai"
Fujimori was sentenced in April to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses committed during his reign in the early 1990s.
On his website (www.kamei-shizuka.net), where he welcomes visitors with rousing songs, Kamei exalts Japan's egalitarianism and sense of pride, blaming US-style globalisation for creating "the law of the jungle."
He says he wants to "revive the beautiful and powerful Japan where arts and culture are integrated with industry and to work hard with the samurai spirit towards the happiness of all living things."
But he hasn't won everyone over.
Hatoyama's cabinet line-up "leaves little doubt that Japan is about to take a giant economic step backward in both economic and financial policy," Jesper Koll, president of Tantallon Research Japan, wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ analyst Naomi Fink said that with an initial public offering of the postal operator now off the agenda she was downgrading her outlook for the Nikkei in fiscal 2010 to 9,000 points from 14,000.
The Nikkei-225 index ended Thursday at 10,443.80 points, up 173.03 points, or 1.68 percent, from the previous close.
But banks shares remained weak. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial shed 1.9 percent to 516 yen and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial slid 5.6 percent to 3,360 yen.