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BOJ's deputy governor sees need for new accord with government

Kitco News

TOKYO (Reuters) - Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Masazumi Wakatabe said the central bank may need to agree on a new joint statement with the government to clarify the division of labour between the two in battling the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

He also said the BOJ had plenty of tools and programmes to expand if it saw the need to top up support for the economy, or counter the negative impact a strong yen may have on inflation.

“We’ve already set up a whole bunch of tools” that can be expanded, Wakatabe told a seminar on Friday. “We have to be innovative whenever we think about engaging on monetary policy.”

Under a joint statement in 2013, the BOJ agreed to hold itself responsible for achieving its 2% inflation target, while the government promised to pursue fiscal and structural reforms.

The 2013 statement laid the groundwork for BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda to deploy his “bazooka” monetary stimulus that was among the three arrows of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies to revitalise the economy.

Wakatabe, a vocal advocate of aggressive monetary easing, said Japan’s experience has shown that ultra-loose policy can be sustained for a prolonged period.

But he said while central banks can pump liquidity, it cannot spend money as that was the realm of governments and the private sector.

“One may find the joint statement between the BOJ and the government in 2013 rather interesting and useful in ensuring a proper division of labor,” Wakatabe said.

“It may be necessary for the central bank and government to agree on a 2013 joint statement-like arrangement to tackle the (COVID-19) crisis and secure a proper division of labor.”

Wakatabe’s remarks were in contrast to those of Kuroda, who has repeatedly said there was no need for the BOJ and government to sign a new joint statement.

They were also the most direct comment to date from a BOJ policymaker calling for the need to draw a clear line between the role the government and the central bank should play in pulling the world’s third-largest economy out of the doldrums.

Wakatabe said while the BOJ did not directly target exchange rates in guiding policy, the central bank was carefully watching yen moves due to their impact on Japanese price moves.

“If we judge that inflation dynamics would be further eroded or weakened by exchange rate moves, that is the time we should think of taking policy action,” he said.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control, the BOJ guides short-term interest rates at -0.1% and the 10-year government bond yield around 0%. It also buys massive amounts of assets and pumps money to firms hit by COVID-19 via financial institutions using a new lending facility.

Wakatabe said the BOJ would not rule out the possibility of deepening negative rates, shrugging off the view that doing so was no longer an option due to the strain that prolonged ultra-low rates was inflicting on bank profits.

But he said any such move should be judged against the background of how it affects the entire shape of the yield curve.

“If we need to do more easing, that’s on the table,” he said, when asked whether the BOJ could take other steps to influence the shape of the yield curve such as changing the maturity of bonds it targets under YCC.

Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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