Position: Minister of Finance, Japan
Incumbent: Yoshihiko Noda, 53
Term: June 2010 to Aug 2013 at the latest but could be shorter if prime minister reshuffles cabinet, resigns or calls snap election before lower house members serve out their terms.
— As a minister in charge of Japan’s fiscal, tax and currency policies, Noda is a fiscal conservative. He strongly backed Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s calls to fix Japan’s tattered finances with self-imposed caps on spending and new debt issuance as Tokyo compiled long-term fiscal plans in June and set a ceiling on the next fiscal year’s budget in July.
— When he was the deputy finance minister, Noda occasionally represented his ministry at overseas meetings, including the G20 finance leaders’ meeting in Scotland last November, although he does not speak English. The experience may have made him more aware of the need to curb a public debt nearly twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy.
— On currencies, Noda has mostly repeated the official line that disorderly moves would hurt stability in the economy and financial markets and that he is closely watching exchange rates. Shortly after assuming his current job, Noda said he would not seek to guide currency rates in a certain direction. He shrugged off speculation Tokyo would step into the market to stem the yen’s rise last November when it hit a 14-year high against the dollar.
— Noda echoes Kan’s view that beating deflation is one of the government’s most urgent tasks. But he has so far remained reserved about monetary policy, despite calls from some ruling party lawmakers that the Bank of Japan should adopt inflation targeting. That is in contrast with his predecessor, among the most vocal critics of the BOJ when the central bank was hesitant to ease monetary policy.
— Unlike many senior politicians in recent years, Noda, the son of a serviceman in Japan’s Self-Defense forces, does not come from a privileged background. After graduating from Waseda University in 1980, Noda went to a school for political leaders that embraces free-market economic policies, called the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, which boasts 70 politicians among its alumni including some cabinet members. He started in regional politics in 1987 and joined the Democratic Party a decade ago, earning a reputation as an orator. A fan of combat sports, he is a keen judo practitioner. (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Jerry Norton)