Shinzo Abe: Celebrating the Former Prime Minister’s Political Legacy

A look at Shinzo Abe’s contribution as Japan’s longest serving prime minister. Taking them from economic and social decline, to a flourishing country.

Jul 12, 2022 | By Michel Santi
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Speech
Image: Reuters

He lifted his country out of the pacifist dogma adopted following World War Two. He contributed massively to Japan’s transformation into a country careful with its geopolitical and strategic interests so it could take up the seat it deserved at the table of global security operations. He was called a fascist by certain under-developed minds. But in reality, Shinzo Abe was a civic activist who loved his country — a staunchly, democratic man, fully dedicated to strengthening Japan.

He had, however, inherited a country in the midst of a deep crisis, that was not only economic and financial, but also existential. Therefore, he had to handle an insidious deflationary spiral with no end in sight, the implosion of the credit market, a completely unprecedented collapse in real estate, the almost total decimation of his stock market, productivity in permanent decline, the loss of competitiveness of what were once Japan’s legendary enterprises, a severe demographic decline, and the aftermath of a tsunami that devastated Fukushima, killing 16,000 people. Many articles I have penned on Shinzo Abe — on his exceptional voluntarism and his original eponymous programme (“Abenomics”) — was based on the famous “three arrows” that ultimately allowed the country to rise above the ashes of its double-lost decade. It reinstate growth and stabilised its public debt to GDP ratio.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Speech
Image: CNA

In “If only we were all Japanese”, I explained how he had had the courage to implement a fundamentally Keynesian programme to increase public spending and to set in motion — via his central bank— a policy of massive monetary creation while also decreeing structural reforms aimed at cleaning up the economy in the long term. In “Japan: a sleeping beauty”, I highlighted the determination of Prime Minister Abe upon his appointment, making no half-measures or baulking in the face of any decision aimed at lifting his country from the lethargy it had been wallowing in for thirty years.

Thanks to Abe, Japan was able to face its destiny, and even force it through by conjuring a veritable revolution of culture and values that revitalised the labour market. In “This Japan that won’t stop surprising us”, I outlined the measures taken under his leadership that led to Japan displaying a higher rate of employment among women than the US — this is done through developing creche systems in order to facilitate women in the workplace. Having found himself with a closed-off — even xenophobic country, Abe revolutionised his country’s shape and form by turning its immigration policy on its head.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Speech
Image: CNA

In 2017, the process to gain resident status in Japan was famously made easier and faster, allowing foreign workers to arrive in almost exponential droves. The country was given a burst of youth at a time when they were in desperate need of it — with nearly 20 per cent of under-20 year olds in Tokyo now having been born outside of Japan.

Faced with Japan’s decline and confronted with disastrous demographic statistics, Shinzo Abe focused his determination on maintaining his country’s status. His conviction was largely inspired by Keynes, who believed that until proven otherwise, we can only count on governments to save the economy by ensuring a strong and high-performing public sector, combined with decisive public spending and the proactive use of monetary policy. In “Japan, mirror of the world“, I demonstrated how Japan was a testing lab, but also a cemetery where economists and theorists could bury their certainties. This country was effectively a teller of truths hard to hear for any orthodox economist as it challenged all the commonly accepted ideals.

Michel Santi

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