'Money politics' brings minister to account: Row over approach to Japan's big banks

JAPAN'S Finance Minister, Yoshiro Hayashi, had a funny old day yesterday.

On the one hand he was busy denying that he had done anything improper by soliciting money - reportedly more than pounds 600,000 - last week from banks and insurance companies to splurge on his election campaign. But shortly afterwards he had to put on another hat and give a press conference saying government spending had to be cut severely because of lower than expected tax revenues.

If this man were not the top economic official of the world's second largest economy, the story would be just a little footnote to the daily dealings of banana-republic administrators, lining their own pockets as their countries lurch further into debt. But Mr Hayashi presides over an economy worth more than dollars 3,000bn ( pounds 1,987bn) so what he says has to be listened to carefully.

And people were listening, since the issue of kinken seiji, or money politics, has loomed large in Japan of late. It is one of the main reasons why the government fell two weeks ago and elections had to be called.

Mr Hayashi's embarrassment began on Thursday. A number of banks and life insurance companies, apparently outraged at requests for political funds from the Finance Minister, arranged for information of Mr Hayashi's soliciting to be leaked to the press. The total sum was said to be 100m yen ( pounds 606,000).

When confronted with the story, Mr Hayashi said there was nothing irregular in him seeking political donations from the very institutions he is meant to supervise as minister. He denied he wanted a total of Y100m, although he refused to say how much he had asked for. Nor was it true, Mr Hayashi said, that he had suggested the banks could conceal their donations by paying inflated prices for advertisements in the newsletter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

And how could journalists possibly impugn his integrity as Finance Minister? 'I am unhappy that an issue has been made of my request because I did not use my position as cabinet minister in soliciting donations,' he told the daily Asahi newspaper.

After dealing with the political funding issue, the 'unhappy' Mr Hayashi then put on a serious face and walked into a press conference in his ministry. With not a trace of irony, he outlined the Finance Ministry's calculation of a pounds 19bn tax revenue shortfall for last year.

The government's coffers are 'in a very serious condition', Mr Hayashi said. His ministry would be reviewing all government spending in 'an austere manner', and anything that was not absolutely necessary would be pruned without compunction. To conclude his speech on austerity and fiscal rectitude, he repeated that he was adamantly opposed to the issuance of deficit-financing bonds.

He did not mention that the LDP as a whole has just reached an agreement to go into debt to the tune of Y10bn with a group of banks to finance its election campaign. It's a funny business, politics.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot