Nominee to become Japan's central bank chief says inflation target his top priority

TOKYO – The veteran financial diplomat nominated to become the next governor of Japan’s central bank says that achieving the government’s 2 per cent inflation target as soon as possible would be his top priority.

“We want to achieve the 2 per cent target set by the government and Bank of Japan at the earliest possible date,” Haruhiko Kuroda, currently president of the Asian Development Bank, told lawmakers Monday. “This will be my most important mission,” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has named Kuroda as its choice to replace Masaaki Shirakawa as BOJ governor when he steps down on Mar. 19, viewing Kuroda as a strong supporter of Abe’s approach to reviving the stagnant economy through aggressive monetary easing and hefty government spending.

Kuroda has criticized the central bank for failing to break a long spell of deflation, or falling prices that reflect feeble demand and can discourage corporate investment, further undermining economic growth.

A former vice minister of finance, Kuroda has long voiced his support for bolder central bank policies and for a weaker currency to help boost export manufacturers by making their products cheaper in overseas markets. His nomination has further fueled selling of the yen, which had already weakened by about 20 per cent against the U.S. dollar since October.

As of midday, the yen was trading at about 93.27 to the U.S. dollar.

Kuroda’s appointment must be approved by both houses of the parliament. A vote is expected by mid-month.

The ruling Liberal Democrats have a majority in the lower house, but must win support from the opposition Democratic Party to gain his approval in the upper house. Local media say the Democratic Party has accepted Kuroda as the most qualified candidate for the job.