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Monday, 1st July 2013
In Business In Japan,

Finance minister says 'poor English' saved Japanese banks

Japanese finance minister Taro Aso has claimed that the poor English speaking skills possessed by senior bank employees within the nation helped it escape the global financial crisis relatively unscathed.

Mr Aso said high-level bankers had not been able to understand the financial instruments that were taken up by major institutions around the world, so had not bought them.

Japanese banks, in the most part, avoided the subprime loans that impacted the US and much of Europe after 2008.

Speaking at a seminar in Tokyo, the finance minister, who also acts as the deputy prime minister of Japan, said the lack of English enabled banks to avoid the difficulties.

"There was an American who said Japanese banks are healthy, but that's not true at all. Managers of Japanese banks hardly understood English, that's why they didn't buy," he revealed.

The nation's three biggest banks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group and third Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group have not made comment on the speech made by the finance minister.

Mr Aso is well-known for his off-the-wall comments, as he recently said elderly people in Japan should be allowed to "hurry up and die" rather than costing the government money with expensive medical care at the end of their lives.

He took the opportunity at the seminar in Tokyo to also point out that businesses in Japan have become too negative, which means that many banks are struggling to find corporations to lend money to, thus hampering the economy.

He said many firms are now risk-averse and are spending a lot of their time and efforts focusing on safety. Mr Aso put this down to the economic collapse of the early 1990s

The deputy prime minister noted that Japanese companies "shifted gear from profit-maximisation to debt-minimisation" with a lot of their profit being used to pay off debts they accrued as a result of the bursting of the economic bubble in the country.

Written by Susan Ballion



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