It was an irresistible promise: elect me, I’ll bring back Japan’s once-soaring economy and restore its battered national pride.
Three years later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing the enormity of his grand ambitions, and the clock is ticking.
Abe, 60, swept to power in December 2012 with a novel recipe for success, energizing a one-time global powerhouse that languished in a decades-long slump, overshadowed by regional rival China.
The take-charge politician trotted around the globe, inking deals for Japanese firms and selling his eponymous “Abenomics” policy blitz.
“I am back and so is Japan,” the two-time nationalist leader declared to an American audience.
Abe’s call to action — including big government spending and massive central bank monetary easing — had some early successes, as the yen weakened sharply from record highs against the dollar.
The drop was good news for exporters as corporate profits soared and the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index doubled to the 20,000 level.
A fledgling economic recovery appeared to be taking hold.
But as he marks three years in office on Saturday, the scale of Abe’s self-appointed task may be coming back to haunt him.
Growth has stumbled, the war on years of deflation is not yet won, and a promised overhaul of the highly regulated economy is far from complete. Read more