The media is reporting that Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio has asked strategy commission chief Kan Naoto to replace Fujii Hirohisa as Finance Minister. In so doing Hatoyama has chose to fill the vital Finance post with an MP with stature within the party and in the media, rather than someone possessing financial expertise or who was directly involved in the compilation of the current budget. Hatoyama seems to have calculated he needs a strong ally with a big ego capable of defending the current budget in the Diet in between now and April rather than a person capable of leading the compilation of a succession of budgets.
In moving Kan over to Finance from National Strategy and having Administrative Reform Minister Sengoku Yoshito take over Kan's portfolio, the Prime Minister is making the best of an unfortunate departure from his Cabinet. Having Sengoku wearing two hats may end up increasing in the internal coherence of long-range fiscal planning and restructuring. Until now Sengoku's mandate has been pretty much limited to finding ways to cut the national budget. He will now be directing cuts with an eye to a grander strategy, which he of course will be now be in charge of fleshing out.
Later - Tobias Harris has more.
Later still - In retrospect, this post should have been entitled "Finance Minister II: The Irascible Kan."
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