Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Finance Minister Aso likely to skip G-20 meeting, sources say

Name of Japan PM's wife removed from land sale documents - Kyodo Japan PM wife's name removed from documents in suspected cronyism scandal-media
Glenn Montgomery | 13 March, 2018, 11:28

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was forced to apologize to the people on Monday after he found himself in the middle of a cronyism scandal that also involves his wife, Akie, and Finance Minister, Taro Aso.

The dollar eased versus the yen on Monday, as traders anxious that a suspected cronyism scandal in Japan involving the sale of state-owned land could dampen investors' risk appetites.

The prime minister had previously said he would resign if he or his wife were shown to be involved in heavily cutting the price of public land sold to a right-wing school operator in Osaka.

The scandal first emerged early a year ago, but resurfaced after the revelation that official documents related to the sale had been changed.

The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party is hoping to end confusion in the Diet and start deliberations.

"It's a serious matter that the documents were altered".

Aso is also under fire over the scandal although the finance ministry insisted on Friday he had no plans to resign. "What became clear is that they debased democracy", by lying to parliament, said opposition lawmaker Renho, who uses one name. A kindergarten run by Mr Gakuen taught a nationalist curriculum in line with views espoused by Nippon Kaigi. Mrs. Abe was a onetime honorary principal of a planned Moritomo elementary school.

Opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said key questions remained.

The risk for Aso and Abe, experts said, is that the suspected cover-up does more damage than the land sale itself.

"At the very least, it seems that Aso's chances of surviving as finance minister are diminishing rapidly", wrote Tobias Harris, vice president of consultancy Teneo Intelligence, in an email.

"I am not thinking about that at all", he said, adding he did not believe the alterations were meant to protect Abe and his wife.

The Mainichi Shimbun has reported the documents were doctored to be "coherent" with a speech made in parliament by the head of the tax agency Nobuhisa Sagawa, who stepped down on Friday over the scandal.

Mr Sagawa headed the ministry division that submitted the documents before he was tapped as tax agency chief in July, an appointment critics saw as a reward for his efforts to diffuse the issue with his statements to Parliament past year.

Some LDP members said politicians should not pass the buck to bureaucrats. Aso has been Abe's deputy since he took office in December 2012, and is seen as a key backer of the Abenomics program, part of which focuses on weakening the yen to boost the nation's exports. It was a rare comeback for the conservative lawmaker, who quit abruptly in 2007 after a year in office marked by scandals in his cabinet, a deadlocked parliament and ill health.

The conservative Yomiuri newspaper and public broadcaster NHK both reported declines in support ratings for Abe's Cabinet in polls released Monday.

Market participants said the political developments in Japan helped temper gains in Japanese equities and lent some support to the yen, which tends to rise in times of economic uncertainty.

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