Position: Bank of Japan Governor
Incumbent: Masaaki Shirakawa, 61
Term: April 2008 to April 2013. Eligible for reappointment by the cabinet if approved by both chambers of parliament.
-- A career central banker, the bespectacled Shirakawa has refused to be labeled a hawk or a dove.
-- Shirakawa spent 34 years at the central bank before leaving in 2006 to teach at a university. He came back two years later as deputy governor.
-- The government turned to Shirakawa for the BOJ’s top job in 2008 after parliament vetoed the previous two nominations amid political deadlock caused by opposition parties’ control of the upper chamber, which resulted in the first leadership vacuum at the BOJ in 80 years.
-- Shirakawa is sometimes credited with being one of the first Japanese policymakers to recognize the seriousness of the banking mess created when Japan’s asset bubble burst in the early 1990s. As early as 1993 he wrote in an internal report to top BOJ officials that Japanese banks were likely to suffer heavy losses from bad loans and there could be a credit crunch and a liquidity crisis.
-- After taking the helm in 2008, he led implementation of unconventional policy steps, including corporate debt buying, during the global financial crisis. He then guided the BOJ out of its corporate debt-buying program as Japan emerged from recession.
-- He has repeatedly said too narrow a focus on short-term prices would cause the central bank to overlook signs of growing instability, defying calls from politicians to set a rigid inflation target. Shirakawa has also said the quantitative easing policy the BOJ used from 2001 to 2006 had little impact on the economy.
-- When he studied economics at the University of Tokyo, one of his professors was Koichi Hamada, now a Yale University professor and known as a vocal critic of the BOJ.
-- Shirakawa has repeatedly faced pressure from the Democratic Party-led government to do more to beat deflation and has sometimes been criticised for holding too rosy a view on the economy. But he has managed to build favourable relations with the government, as illustrated by the launch of regular talks with the prime minister.
(Reporting by Rie Ishiguro; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)