Poor English Saved Japanese Banks?

by Robert Moorehead

Japanese Finance Minister and deputy prime minister Aso Taro claimed Friday that ignorance by Japanese bank managers saved Japan from buying the subprime loan products that later collapsed in value and ushered in the Great Recession. According to Aso, bank managers’ command of English was so poor that they avoided studying the complex financial products and instead avoided them.

As reported in the Japan Times, Aso told a seminar in Tokyo “Many people fell prey to the dubious products, or so-called subprime loans. Japanese banks were not so much attracted to these products, compared with European banks.”

“Managers of Japanese banks hardly understood English. That’s why they didn’t buy,” he said.

Other explanations would be more encouraging. For example, “Japanese bank managers avoided the products because they saw them as too risky,” or “Japanese bank managers showed keen insight into the global economy and recognized that these products were a poor investment.” But praising bank managers’ ignorance of English?

Aso is well-known for his verbal gaffes, including saying that the elderly should “hurry up and die” to save the government money on end-of-life care. “Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” said Aso in January. “The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”

Aso has also referred to people unable to feed themselves as”tube people,” made quips about Alzheimer’s Disease, and said that poor people should not get married. “It seems rather difficult to me for someone without means to win people’s respect.”

Maybe Aso’s comments could fuel new advertising slogans for banks …

“Bank of Tokyo, where the only English we know is our name.”

“Globali-what? Come to Bank of Osaka, where we put your money under a mattress.”

“At the Bank of Kyoto, we make sure none of our employees has ever left the country.”

Submit your own slogans!