Shinzo Abe The man behind Japan’s booming Economy

Shinzo Abe is the current prime minister of Japan since 2012. He is the third longest serving Prime Minister of Japan after the post-war era. He is serving as the President of Japan’s ruling political party, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Abe also remained country’s premier during 2006 to 2007. Since regaining the premiership in 2012 he has utilized a number of effective economic policies known as “Abenomics,” which have injected billions of dollars into Japan’s stagnant economy to kick-start the booming growth the world witnesses today.

Shinzo Abe was born on 21 September 1954. He hails from a strong political family. His maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, twice served as the prime minister while his father, Shintaro Abe, remained Japan’s foreign minister. Shinzo Abe joined politics from an early age and has been climbing the country’s political ranks eversince.

On becoming the Prime Minister, Abe continued with fiscal reforms started by his predecessor Koizumi Junichiro. However, he undertook specific initiatives to balance the budget and achieved that by curtailing expenditure rather than by increasing tax revenues. As part of educational reforms, he wanted to promote nationalistic views. He had supported such efforts all along. In March 2007, he introduced a bill that aimed at promoting nationalism and love for the country among the children.

He specifically tried to maintain strong bilateral relations with foreign countries and supported Japan’s alliance with the United States. At the same time, he took several steps to strengthen the country’s defense. Under his prime minister ship, Japan’s Defense Agency was upgraded to full military status.

Abe’s popularity took a nose drive, during his first rule as premier, when in the middle of 2007 his government became embroiled in financial scandals. The minister of Agriculture of his cabinet committed suicide as such scandals came to forefront. Mishandling of pension records of millions of citizens also came to light and the government was criticized for its slow response.

In July 2007, for the first time in 52 years, Liberal Democratic Party lost its majority in the upper house to a coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Abe tendered his resignation on September 26, 2007 unexpectedly. Apart from his unpopularity, ill health was another reason cited as the cause of his resignation.

After resigning from the post of the Prime Minister Abe spent a quiet time in the Japanese Parliament commonly referred to as National Diet. Diet is composed of an upper house known as House of Councilors and a lower house, House of Representatives. In 2009, election, he won from his Yamaguchi 4th district. However, LDP lost the power and Democratic Party of Japan formed the government.

During 2012, Abe was formally appointed as the Prime Minister of Japan. However, LDP was in minority in the upper house and it created delay in passing the bills. The position was rectified by the 2013 upper house election. LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito Party got majority seats and as a result Abe had control over both the houses. This gave him the opportunity to pursue his policies more vigorously.

Abe first established the National Security Council of Japan and announced a five year plan for military expansion. Besides, he also undertook an ambitious economic plan. It worked well in the beginning, but from second half of 2014, Japan went into recession and Abe’s popularity dipped.

Abe then called for early election of the lower house. It was held during December 2014. Although the voter turnout was low LDP won handsomely. Abe was now free to pursue his policies. He started reinterpreting the Japanese constitution, especially, the peace clauses.

In May 2015, he introduced a bill that would make it easier for Japan to use military force in case of any external threat. The bill was passed into law in September 2015. Since its passage, Abe continues to pursue his nationalistic policies.

The Second Abe cabinet revived the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP) that had played a key role in formulating economic policy during the Koizumi cabinet, but had been abandoned by the 2009-12 Democratic Party’s administration. Abe declared in his January 2013 policy speech to the Diet that economic revival and escaping deflation was “the greatest and urgent issue” facing Japan. His economic strategy, referred to as Abenomics, consists of the so-called “three arrows” (an allusion to an old Japanese story) of policy. The first component, monetary expansion, was aimed at achieving a 2% inflation target, the second a flexible fiscal policy to act as an economic stimulus in the short term and the third, a growth strategy focusing on structural reforms and private sector investment to achieve long-term growth.

Shinzo Abe was born in Tokyo and received early education from Seikei Elementary School, Seikei Junior High School and Seikei Senior High School. At higher educational front, he studied public administration and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Seikei University in 1977. He later moved to the United States and studied public policy at the University of Southern California’s School of Public Policy.

In April 1979, Abe began working for Kobe Steel.In 1982, he justify Kobe Steel and joined politics full time. In the same year, he became the assistant executive to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post held by his father Shintaro Abe. Shintaro Abe died in 1991. In 1993, Shinzo Abe entered the House of Representatives by winning the seat from the first district of Yamaguchi Prefecture, vacated by the death of his father. From the very beginning, he was one of the important members of the house.

In 1997, Shinzō led the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, a group founded in December 1996 to promote a nationalistic view of the history of Japan. Next from 2002 to 2003, Abe held the post of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. He also founded the ‘Institute of Junior Assembly Members’ who think about the outlook of Japan and history education and became its bureau chief.

In 1999, Shinzo Abe became the Director of Social Affairs Division. In 2002, North Korea admitted of abducting thirteen Japanese citizens, Abe was chosen by his government to negotiate on behalf of the families of the abductee. Abe’s tough stance against North Korea was highly appreciated by the nation and his popularity started soaring. When in 2002, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro went to meet Kim Jong II, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Abe accompanied him.

In 2003, Abe became the Secretary General of Liberal Democratic Party. In 2006, Koizumi Junichiro announced that he would step down both as a Prime Minister and LDP President. As he did not select his successor, election was held. Abe was elected as the president of LDP on September 20, 2006. The election for the Prime Minister’s post was held six days later on 26th September. Abe won this election with a solid majority. At that time, he was only 52 years old.

On a tour of the Middle East in January 2015 during his third-term, Abe announced that Japan would provide $ 200 million in non-military assistance to countries fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part of a 2.5 billion dollar aid package. Shortly after this, ISIL threatened to kill two Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, in retaliation for the move unless Abe’s government paid 200 million dollars of ransom money. Both hostages were killed during January. Abe condemned the killings as a “heinous act”, declared that Japan would “not give in to terrorism” and pledged to work with the international community to bring the killers to justice.

In April 2015, he addressed a joint sitting of the U.S. Congress, the first Japanese prime minister to do so. In his speech he referred to the Japan-US Alliance as the “Alliance of Hope”, promised that Japan would play a more active security and defence role in the alliance and argued that the Trans Pacific Partnership would bring both economic and security benefits to the Asia-Pacific region. The address served as part of a state visit to the United States, the eighth of the Obama Presidency, which the president referred to as a “celebration of the ties of friendship” between America and Japan.

Japan’s relations with South Korea have improved somewhat during Abe’s third term, in the aftermath of Abe’s war anniversary statement. Abe and Korea’s President Park Geun-hye held their first bilateral meeting in November 2015, where they both agreed to resolve the issue of so-called “Comfort women” which Park described as the biggest obstacle to closer ties.

Shortly after Donald Trump had won the US presidential election, Abe cut his presence at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima short, in order to have an informal, impromptu meeting with the then President-elect, at the Trump Tower. After Trump’s inauguration, they had a formal meeting at Mar-a-Lago, discussed security, in light of a North Korean threat, with Abe stating that Japan will be more committed to Japan-United States relations.

The 2017 general election was held on 22 October in which LDP won with majority and Shinzo Abe sworn in as Prime Minister for the fourth time. Prime Minister Abe announced the early election on 25 September, while the North Korea crisis was prominent in the news media. Political opponents of Abe said that early election was designed to evade questioning in parliament over alleged scandals. Abe’s ruling coalition took almost a majority of the vote and two thirds of the seats.

Mr Abe’s ultimate mission is to revise Japan’s post-war coalition, a pressing issue which has polarised Japanese politics. His party and its nationalist supporters view the 1948 constitution as the legacy of Japan’s defeat in the Second World War and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values. Abe plans to amend the constitution so that it renounces the use of force in international conflicts while limiting Japan’s army to self-defence. Enhanced bilateral ties with international community and effective policy making at home will lead Japan to rise higher on global horizons under Shinzo Abe’s leadership.

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