Japan's Premier Is A Survivor, But Is He A Real Reformer?

When mild-mannered Keizo Obuchi became Prime Minister in July, opponents derided him as an ineffectual Liberal Democratic Party hack. Few thought he would last out the year in office. Initially, Obuchi, 61, confounded them. His administration coaxed financial reforms and a $500 billion bank bailout through the Diet. That enabled him to place debt-laden Nippon Credit Bank under state control. He also cobbled together a $200 billion package to prop up the faltering economy with new public spending and funds to soften the credit crunch on small businesses. Now, he is pushing $90 billion in corporate and income tax cuts for fiscal 1999.

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