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Poster boy for financial speculators.

Most of the Japanese mainstream media, according to Tokyo political insiders, have been surprisingly restrained in covering the financial scandal surrounding Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui. That scandal involves an investment Mr. Fukui maintained even alter taking the helm of the central bank, earning a reported [yen] 12.3 million return for the Japanese official while in public office.

While the mainstream media may have soft-pedaled the story, the general public hasn't been so tolerant. The reason: Japan has faced seven years of a zero interest rate policy where the average depositor has earned very little in return. The growing populist attitude is that in all the years the little guy felt the squeeze, only the "speculators" made out like bandits. And who now has symbolically become Japan's poster boy for such speculation? Of all people, the Governor of the Bank of Japan.

This of course is a political, not legal, issue. But it is an issue in which Mr. Fukui, a highly admired policymaker seen as unusually capable, faces a no-win situation. He moved forward with an early interest rate hike as planned and his detractors in the Liberal Democratic Party, already fearful of further stock market losses, are already blaming him for pandering to the public to save his political hide. By the same token, had he not raised rates early as promised, Mr. Fukui would have risked damaging the hard-won independence and credibility of the central bank which he in large part helped create. Either way, the yen and perhaps Mr. Fukui are unlikely to come out winners.
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Title Annotation:OFF THE NEWS; Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui
Publication:The International Economy
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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