Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday launched a spiriteddefence of his "Abenomics" reforms aimed at kickstarting the world's third-largesteconomy, saying the policy blitz had yielded great results.
The reforms, based on big government spending, central bank monetary easing andstructural change, had been hailed internationally as an opportunity to reversedeflation and sluggish growth after Abe launched them in 2012 when elected for asecond term.But they have recently lost some of their global shine, with the International
Monetary Fund cutting its 2014 growth forecast for Japan last month and warningthat "Abenomics still needs to translate into stronger domestic private demand."In a keynote address to the Paris-based Organisation of Economic Co-operation andDevelopment (OECD), Abe said the economic landscape in Japan had "changed
completely" thanks to the reforms."Since Abenomics began, the ratio of job offers to jobs seekers has risen for 16
consecutive months and now stands at 1.07 offers of employment for every personseeking work," he said.Japan's unemployment rate in February and March was 3.6 percent -- the lowest levelsince July 2007, the year before the financial crisis."This spring, a large number of companies took the decision to raise wages," Abesaid."Monthly wages will rise by more than 2 percent. We will aim at further economicrecovery."Abe said that according to a study by the Bank of Japan, all of the country's regionswere in the midst of an economic recovery.He added that business sentiment among small- and medium-sized enterprises hadturned positive at the end of last year, which he said was an "accomplishment notseen in an astounding 21 years and 10 months among non-manufacturers.""I believe it would be fair to say that Japan is now truly on the verge of pulling outof deflation," he said."The Japanese economy is back," he said.The prime minister said Tokyo was confident of being able to achieve the threegoals of "revitalising the economy, rebuilding government finances and reformingsocial security."Abe, who is on a six-nation European tour, is also pushing for the swift conclusionof a trade deal with the European Union which has hit snags on the thorny issue oftariffs and trade barriers.The EU wants progress on non-tariff barriers in certain Japanese markets, while akey issue for Tokyo is that Brussels dismantle customs duties on Japaneseautomobiles -- a sensitive topic for big car producer and exporter Germany."I believe that an EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) between Japan and EUshould be concluded at the earliest possible time," Abe told the OECD.In a separate report published Tuesday, the organisation said Japan needed "bolderreforms" urgently that included "fundamental changes in product markets,including greater international openness.""Japan's barriers in some network industries are among the highest in the OECD," itsaid.The OECD also trimmed Tuesday by 0.3 points its forecast for Japanese growth thisyear to 1.2 percent, and expects the same growth rate in 2015.