FACTBOX-Five facts about Japan PM Naoto Kan

(For more stories on Japanese politics click [ID:nPOLJP])

July 11 (BestGrowthStock) – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has
made fiscal reform, including a possible sales tax hike,
central to his campaign for an election on Sunday in a gamble
that voters will swallow a higher tax burden to fund soaring
social security costs.

But Kan’s Democratic Party looks increasingly likely to
suffer a sharp setback in the upper house election, putting his
job at risk and complicating efforts to curb the country’s
mountain of debt.

Following are five facts about Kan.

— Just a month ago, then Finance Minister Kan took over
from his unpopular predecessor Yukio Hatoyama and became
Japan’s fifth prime minister in three years at a time when the
country was struggling to rein in soaring debt, engineer
sustainable growth in an ageing society and manage ties with
security ally the United States and a rising China.

— Having seen Greece’s debt problems turn into a European
crisis, Kan became one of Japan’s most vocal advocates for the
need to come up with a credible long-term fiscal reform plan.
Kan is determined to avoid a debt crisis in Japan, often citing
the Greek problems and the market’s concern about Japan’s huge
debt, which at near 200 percent of GDP is the highest among
major economies.

— Kan is known both for sharp debating skills and a short
temper, but he has recently been somewhat on the defensive
after his call to debate possibly doubling the 5 percent sales
tax has put off some voters ahead of the election. He has
apologised for failing to fully clarify his stance on the sales
tax, saying voters got the wrong impression that the tax would
be raised immediately when he has said such a hike would take
at least two to three years.

— A vocal critic of the Bank of Japan when it was
reluctant to ease monetary policy, Kan toned down his criticism
after the central bank took several steps, but might turn up
the heat quickly if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Kan
is widely regarded by currency traders as favouring a weaker
yen, and his recent comments have done nothing to change that
impression.

— The 63-year-old veteran lawmaker, who founded the
Democratic Party with Hatoyama more than a decade ago, shot to
fame as health minister in the 1990s, when he battled
bureaucrats and spearheaded a campaign to unveil the scandal
over HIV-tainted blood products. Kan, the son of a businessman,
with a passion for mahjong and an everyman image, began his
career as a grassroots activist, campaigning for a prominent
feminist lawmaker before seeking a seat in parliament. He lost
three times before winning a seat for a small, leftist party.
(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Alex Richardson)

FACTBOX-Five facts about Japan PM Naoto Kan