In fading Japan hinterland, scepticism doubt 'Abenomics' will cure ills

Sun Nov 30, 2014 4:20pm EST
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By Linda Sieg

AKITA CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Mihoko Asaka wants to know how candidates in this month's election in Japan will create jobs and halt the drastic population decline that is bleeding her home region of youth and vitality, but has little hope they will offer real solutions.

Like many of his age group, her 25-year-old son left the largely rural prefecture of Akita in northeastern Japan to find work after graduating from college.

"I'm interested to see how much they are listening to the voices from this region," said Asaka, 57, waiting for a bus in Akita City, the prefecture's capital. "But I don't think our voices are being heard. They talk about money being thrown around, but we can't see where it goes."

Critics say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to end deflation and generate growth have helped mainly big cities, large companies and the rich by boosting share prices and exporters' profits with a hyper-easy monetary policy that has slashed the value of the yen and sent asset prices higher.

All too aware of the criticism, Abe has made spreading the benefits of his "Abenomics" agenda to "every nook and cranny" of Japan a key plank of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) platform for the Dec. 14 lower house election.

The LDP-led ruling coalition is expected to keep its lower house majority, so interest is focused on whether and to what extent its grip on two-thirds of the chamber erodes.

Akita prefecture, with the dubious distinction of having Japan's highest suicide rate and fastest-shrinking population, definitely needs a boost.

Already, about 30 percent of its population is aged 65 and over compared to 25 percent nationwide, with the ratio predicted to rise to more than 40 percent by 2040, when Akita's total population will have fallen by more than a third to 700,000.   Continued...

Japan's Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Shinzo Abe speaks ahead of a general election, in front of a Shinjuku train station in Tokyo November 28, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino