TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan is heading in the right direction by “stealth” tapering its huge asset purchases given the rising cost of prolonged monetary easing, said former trade minister and opposition heavyweight Banri Kaieda.

As trade minister in 2011, Kaieda frequently pressured the central bank to ramp up stimulus to combat a yen spike that was hurting Japan’s export-reliant economy.

With the BOJ having deployed a “bazooka” stimulus in 2013 and adopting negative interest rates in 2016, Kaieda now grills BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda in parliament for not revealing an exit strategy from the bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy.

“Negative rates helped stem unwelcome yen rises, which is an accomplishment that must be recognised,” Kaieda told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

“We now need to fix the side-effects, though this will take time,” he said, pointing to the pain years of ultra-low rates is inflicting on financial institutions’ profits.

The comments highlight a sea-change in public sentiment over the role of monetary policy, as years of heavy money printing have failed to fire up inflation and forced the central bank to maintain its radical stimulus longer than expected.

Kaieda said the BOJ made the “right move” by fine-tuning its policy framework in March, such as allowing bond yields to move more flexibly and ditching a numerical target for the pace of its purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETF).

“The BOJ is already stealth tapering,” Kaieda said, adding that it was an “absolutely right decision” to start with its ETF purchases in heading toward an exit from ultra-loose policy.

“Buying ETFs more flexibly was an important first step,” said Kaieda, who currently belongs to major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Japan’s economy was suffering from deflation and the pain from sharp yen gains when Kaieda’s party held power for three years until 2011.

After the current ruling Liberal Democratic Party seized power, then prime minister Shinzo Abe deployed his “Abenomics” stimulus policies that reversed yen rises and boosted stocks.

Kuroda’s “bazooka” stimulus was among the three arrows of Abenomics. While it was hailed for boosting stocks and weakening the yen, the BOJ has so far failed to hit its 2% inflation goal.

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