Japan's leadership woes hinder economic reforms: OECD
Japan's rapid-fire leadership changes have hindered reforms crucial to fixing its finances and reviving the economy, the head of the OECD said Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took office in June as the country's fifth leader in three years, survived a leadership challenge last month and is struggling to win enough support to pass laws in parliament.
"They have some very complicated economic challenges and also challenges of governability," OECD secretary general Angel Gurria told an economic conference in Madrid when asked about Japan's two decades of stagnation.
"How many prime ministers have they had in recent years? Five or six? That does not help."
The lack of a stable government meant the state was usually focussed on "immediate problems, the ones you must tackle tomorrow while medium-term issues are not tackled with the same efficiency," Gurria said.
Japan is struggling with weak economic growth, deflation, a rising yen, slowing exports and a heavy social welfare burden which has caused its public debt burden to soar.
Gurria said Japan also needed to correct its double-tier labour market, with nearly 40 percent of the population employed as part-time, temporary or contract workers with few rights and benefits.
"It seems like we are talking about an emerging country, but we are talking about Japan," he said.
Japan's gross domestic product grew at a revised annualized pace of 1.5 percent in the April-June period, far below the previous quarter's 5.0 percent gain.
In the second quarter of this year, China surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest economy.
Last month, ratings agency Standard & Poor's also said Japan's frequent changes of government in recent years complicated efforts to address the growing debt burden and it warned it may review its credit ratings.
S&P downgraded its outlook on Japan's AA credit rating to negative from stable in January.
© 2010 AFP