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2008年10月28日 (火)


(Mainichi Japan) October 27, 2008

Aso invokes Takeo Fukuda's 'three-year complete cure' plan for economy


The grievous cries of businessmen are being heard more often. Last week, at a study meeting in Yokohama held under the auspices of the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau, the proprietors of companies in the high-frequency-wave product business made their voices heard.


"For (Prime Minister Taro) Aso to put on an optimistic face gives us encouragement. However, at this rate, from the end of the year to the beginning of next, we small and medium-sized companies will begin to drop like flies," warned the proprietors.


"Aso has been talking up a complete cure after several years, and large corporations should be able to hold out. However, in the event that they are completely cured, if the small and medium-sized companies disappear, large corporations would screech to a halt. Large corporations can't get by without their small and medium subcontractors. That point should not be forgotten."


Since taking office, Prime Minister Aso has repeatedly talked about a three-year complete cure for the economy. In his first policy speech, he said, "It will take about three years for the outlook to clear up. I will say that a complete cure for the Japanese economy will take three years. Japan will re-emerge in three years. I believe that this is something we have to do," said Aso, as he rattled off a succession of "threes." Is there a special hope of success attached to three years?

 麻生首相は就任以来、経済の、 <全治3年> を繰り返してきた。初の所信表明演説では、「めどをつけるには、大体3年。日本経済は全治3年、と申し上げます。3年で、日本は脱皮できる。せねばならぬと信じるものであります」 と述べ、<3>の数字を連発した。3年という期間に特別の成算があるのか。

The significance of the "three-year complete cure" plan that Aso espouses is revealed in the article that he wrote as prime minister for the November issue of Bungei Shunju magazine.


In November 1973, in the midst of the tumultuous price rises following the first oil shock, then Finance Minister Takeo Fukuda, who was a member of the Tanaka Cabinet, coined the "three-year complete cure" catchphrase.


After Finance Minister Kiichi Aichi died suddenly, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka asked his political rival Fukuda to succeed Aichi. Before accepting the post, Fukuda asked Tanaka, "What do you think messed up the management of the economy?"


Tanaka replied, "It is because of the oil shock ..."


"That's not the case," retorted Fukuda. "Prices have been going up and up because of your plan to remodel the Japanese archipelago, and the international balance of payments has gone haywire. The oil shock was the final blow. Things can't be fixed unless you change your thinking on the ultra-high-speed growth that would accompany the remodeling of the archipelago"

Fukuda had essentially asked Tanaka to take down his "remodel the archipelago" banner. Tanaka was reluctant, but the following morning he told Fukuda, "I will withdraw my plan. You won't hear a peep from me on the economy. I'll leave it up to you," and Fukuda became finance minister.

 「そうじゃない。あんたが掲げた日本列島改造論で物価は暴騰に次ぐ暴騰、国際収支が大混乱に陥っている。石油ショックは追い打ちだ。列島改造の超高度成長的な考え方を改めない限り、修復はできない」 と列島改造の旗を降ろすよう求めた。田中は渋り、翌朝、「撤回する。経済についてはひと言も言わない。任せる」と答えて、福田蔵相が生まれる、という経緯があった。

Fukuda told the nation, "This time it won't be easy. A complete cure takes three years. All of you will have to show considerable perseverance."

At the time, Aso was the 33-year-old manager of a cement company. "We were being squeezed by soaring raw materials costs and personnel costs but plunged ahead with new plant investment. Everybody had an opposing view, so Finance Minister Fukuda's bold 'three-year complete cure' catchphrase gave us the green light to go forward," Aso writes in the article that explains why he is rolling out Fukuda's catchphrase again.


But the "three-year complete cure" that Fukuda attempted 35 years ago was a contractionary demand management policy based on fiscal restraint, so corporations could not look forward to rapid growth, and households had to scrimp on consumption.


Fukuda later said, "The nation was very cooperative, three years passed, and by the fourth year, the Japanese economy had recovered and was running normally." Fukuda himself became prime minister three years after his "three-year complete cure" declaration.


So what measures will Aso, who advocates an expansionary policy, adopt? Will his "three-year complete cure" plan bear fruit? In his article, Aso is critical of all administrations since the bubble burst in 1993 (with the exception of the Koizumi administration), and boasts, "I will not repeat their failures. I have the experience in the art of persuasion and the knowledge to reach realistic and optimum conclusions."

 さて、積極派の麻生はどんな手を打つのか。<3年>の借用が生きてくるのか。麻生は先の論文で、バブル崩壊の93年以降の歴代政権に批判(小泉政権だけは評価)を加えながら、<その愚を私は繰り返さない。私には現実的に最適な結論を得るための説得の経験と知恵がある> と自負した。

For the time being, let's sit back and watch him strut his stuff.

(By Takao Iwami, Adviser to the Mainichi Shimbun Editorial Division)


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