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Friday, 24 January, 2003, 13:39 GMT
Look to football for revival clues, says Sony
Junichi Inamoto
Inamoto puts one past Russia at last year's World Cup

Japan should scour its national football team and foreign-managed carmaker, Nissan, for clues to its economic revival, world leaders have heard.

Nissan's turnaround under French-owned Renault showed there were alternatives to the Japanese model which, while fuelling the country's growth into a trade superpower, had lumbered it with economic stagnation in recent years, politician Motorise Furukawa said.

Nobuyuki Idei, Sony chairman (Photo by WEF)
Nobuyuki Idei: Politics? Not likely
And Nobuyuki Idei, chairman of tech giant Sony, pointed to the role of imported expertise in Japan's rise into a feared footballing nation.

"Suddenly Japanese football is competitive," Mr Idei told the World Economic Forum's annual summit in Davos.

But Mr Idei rejected a call by Carlos Ghosn, who spearheaded Nissan's revival, to stand for political office in Japan, and himself lead the country from economic malaise.

"Nobody wants to be a candidate, if a businessman, to be head of Japan," Mr Idei said.

Bureaucrats have been able to control the law, control the economy

Professor Jiro Tamura, Keio University
Mr Ghosn, president of Nissan since 1999, when he was appointed after an investment by Renault, said that Japan's current problems made political leadership a "great opportunity".

"I am sure the people in Japan are waiting for a revival," Mr Ghosn said, "but they are waiting for a hand."

He said "nobody wanted to be head of Nissan in 1999," when the firm was "on the brink of collapse".

Leaders gather

The debate came on the second day of the week-long summit, which is expected to attract 2,300 leaders including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and World Trade Organisation head Supachai Panitchpakdi.

Underground people solve problems for people in Japan

Professor Jiro Tamura, Keio University

While the forum has been called under the banner Building Trust, it has become dominated by the prospect of a US-led war against Iraq, and fears that rising oil prices could wreak economic havoc.

Alvaro Silva-Calderon, secretary-general of Opec, hinted on Friday that there was little hope of the oil producers' cartel acting further to curb prices rises.

The cartel was already "doing all it can to bring world oil prices down", he said.

Thugs hired

In Japan, while oil prices were not viewed as economically helpful, civil servants, wielding significant discretionary powers, were seen as the major cause of the country's troubles.

"Bureaucrats have been able to control the law, control the economy," said Jiro Tamura, professor of law at Keio University.

In the legal system, "careful manipulation by bureaucracy" had left Japan with a judiciary too small to be effective.

Opening a legal case represented a "life's work", Mr Tamura said, leaving disgruntled citizens to seek redress through intimidation.

"Underground people solve problems for people in Japan," Mr Tamura said.



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29 Jan 03 | Business
20 Jan 03 | Business
10 Jan 03 | Technology
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