EDITORIAL

Getting Abenomics spot on target

Japanese voters must be wondering if some of the foresight that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed in calling an early election will also be available to revive the nation's flaccid economy. The snap poll was a shrewd political move by a leader who already had an unassailable control of the legislature and an almost guaranteed two more years at the helm. Timing it well and catching the opposition on the wrong foot, he has won a landslide victory - with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House. Now, how can he use this advantage to make his economic growth formula a thumping success?

It has always been about the economy, although many Japanese would also deem it a blessing that Mr Abe's political tour de force has brought an end to Japan's revolving-door politics for at least another few years. Changing prime ministers every year or so did little to help banish two decades of deflation.

A lot of hopes had been riding earlier on his Abenomics - a combination of loose monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms - to revitalise the economy. But Mr Abe did not read the tea leaves well and let the economy slip back into recession with his sales tax increase. Small wonder that about half of the electorate think poorly of Abenomics.

With most Japanese feeling they have benefited little from his policies, Mr Abe needs to reboot his economic prescriptions, especially the growth strategies that make up the third arrow in his Abenomics quiver. Bills on empowering women, special economic zones and other measures that were discarded when the House was dissolved last month will have to be resurrected. It does not take a lot of prescience to see that what will make a crucial difference to his campaign to end deflation is the political will to pursue the bold reforms he had pledged.

Mr Abe would be squandering his renewed mandate if he uses his political strength to muscle Bills on defence through the National Diet, instead of staying focused on the economy. It was disturbing to hear him suggest that the election result showed the people's support of his decision to give the Japanese military the right of collective self- defence through a controversial reinterpretation of the Constitution.

Mr Abe's obsession with rewriting the Constitution and the history of Japan's wartime aggression is difficult to fathom, especially coming from a leader who has pledged to put the economy above all else going forward.

Surely, he must have enough on his hands to deal with, like fiscal challenges, tepid domestic demand and weakening exports. As conditions are expected to worsen, Mr Abe should get his priorities straight.