Akimoto Sakie (Jodie), President, Saki Corporation
Hasegawa Yasuchika, President, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Chairman, Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai)
Hashimoto Kazuhito, Professor, Tokyo University
Mikitani Hiroshi, President and Founder, Rakuten
Niinami Takeshi, President, Lawson
Sakakibara Toshiyuki, President, Toray Group
Sakane Masahiro, Chairman, Komatsu Group
Sato Yasuhiro, President, Mizuho Financial Group
Takenaka Heizo, Professor, Keio University
Credit where credit is due: one could not pick a more photogenic and knowledgeable set of representatives of Japan's management and business development worlds (applied chemist Hashimoto, one of the two academics on the council, is a poster boy of academic-industrial cooperation).
Which is the first problem.
All of these folks have day jobs running successful companies or academic enterprises. Hasegawa, Amaterasu bless him, has two day jobs.
Which means the amount of time and attention these persons can consecrate to the Industrial Competitiveness Council is minuscule.
Unfortunately, the amount of energy and effort needed to come up with a feasible action plan for improving the competitiveness of Japanese business would be immense. If this were a real, functional council on competitiveness, membership in the council would not just be one's day job, it would be one's life.
The Council had its first meeting yesterday. (Link - J)
Which is the second problem.
The Abe administration's economic revival plan is a trident with three prongs. The first is fiscal stimulus, either in a single burst or a steady program (Abe has unsurprisingly been silent about multi-year stimulus since the election). This debt-fueled kick start to the economy is geared to/needed to (there is a healthy debate as to the necessity) revive Japan's animal spirits.
The second is an ultra-accommodative monetary policy, driving down the value of the yen and savings and supporting mild (2%) inflation.
The third prong is supposed to be restructuring the economy. Since economic restructuring has an bad reputation, risutora being the euphemism for being laid off from work, the effort has been rebranded as economic revitalization, which sounds so much more hopeful.
Strangely, while the Abe government has needed no advice on how to structure a fiscal stimulus package (Liberal Democratic Party-led governments having done so well in this department in the past) or how to work with the Bank of Japan on monetary policy ("Push outgoing Bank Governor Shirakawa Masaaki into a corner? Nailed it!") it seems, on the subject of changing the way Japanese government and business do business, to be in need of wise counsel, delivered at a measured pace.
Could this need for advice, and not immediately, be because
To put it another way -- if you wanted to have a credible revival economic plan, would you not want to have the bitter and the sweet together so as to make the whole more palatable, rather do than what the Abe government is doing, which is tossing out the honey pell-mell whilst retaining the bitter pill for a council of wisemen and wisewomen to ponder over?
So let us say it together: the Industrial Competitiveness Council is a public relations stunt.
Takenaka will stick around until such time as the Abe government makes its choice for the next Bank of Japan Governor. He will then leave, either to take up the governorship or to spend his free moments more wisely (Takenaka should open a training school on how to shrug off unprofitable activities without a shred of remorse). Other members of the council will continue to attend meetings but only to tell shaggy dog tales.
Which is possibly the point of the whole exercise.