Big-spender ex-PM to be Japan's finance chief: report

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A former Japanese prime minister known as a big spender in his political and personal life, will likely become the country's next finance minister and deputy premier, a report said on Thursday.

The leading Nikkei business daily said incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tap 72-year-old Taro Aso as finance chief and his own deputy, in a new government set to be formed next week.

Aso's past spending habits are in line with those of Abe, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) swept to victory in national elections Sunday, pledging to boost the nation's ailing economy.

Aso, a fourth-generation politician who became Japan's prime minister in 2008, served as foreign minister during Abe's 2006-2007 stint in Japan's top political job.

As prime minister, Aso launched a series of economic stimulus packages worth hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up Japan's long-struggling economy.

But his time as premier ended in less than a year as the long-ruling LDP lost an historic election to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2009, while Aso's own missteps dented his popularity.

The scion of a wealthy family, he faced criticism for regular outings to luxurious hotel bars and mispronouncing commonly-used Chinese characters that make up part of the Japanese writing system.

Just a week before before his party lost to the DPJ, and as the economy sputtered, Aso was quoted as saying that "if you don't have money, you'd better not get married", dealing another blow to his profile.

In 2006, while he was foreign minister, a New York Times editorial branded Aso "Japan's offensive minister" for praising aspects of his country's colonial history in Asia, a particularly sore point in China and on the Korean peninsula.

His previous spending policies, however, were similar to those pledged by Abe -- to turn on the fiscal taps.

Abe has said he will pressure the Bank of Japan into more aggressive easing to power the world's third-largest economy, which may have slipped into recession in the third quarter.

A senior LDP official said Wednesday the incoming government would launch a spending package worth about 10 trillion yen ($118 billion) aimed at injecting life into the nation's limp economy.