The frenetic activity of the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prompted optimism that Japan can reverse its economic drift. But activity shouldn't be mistaken for achievement.
Under Abe's second go as prime minister, Japan has initiated an ambitious "three arrows" economic recovery plan, christened "Abenomics." (Recent growth figures are cited as proof of the success of these new policies, despite the fact that they were not in place during the relevant period.)
The first arrow is a 10.3 trillion yen (US$100 billion) fiscal stimulus program to increase public spending. The second arrow is a further easing of monetary policy to increase demand, investment and inflation (to 2%). The third arrow mandates structural reforms to increase incomes and improve Japan's industrial competitiveness and productivity. Japan's total factor productivity in the manufacturing, non-manufacturing and agricultural sectors is the same as in 1991.
The policies have all been tried before, with limited success.
The government's spending program follows 15 stimulus packages between 1990 and 2008. Based on previous experience, it may provide a short-lived jump to economic activity but will not create a sustainable recovery in demand.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British counterpart David Cameron agreed Thursday in London on the need to promote increased government spending and other economic measures to bolster the flagging global economy, while vowing to work together in fighting terrorism. (Kyodo)
Manifesting an unstoppable decline in births, the number of children aged 14 or under in Japan fell for the 35th straight year to a record-low 16.05 million as of April 1, government estimates showed Wednesday. (Japan Today)
East Japan Railway Co. said Thursday it has resolved a computer malfunction that caused all electronic signboards for shinkansen bullet trains to shut down the previous day, causing confusion for travelers during the Golden Week holiday period. (Japan Times)
The popular black bear character Kumamon resumed activities as the official mascot of Kumamoto on Thursday, three weeks after the southwestern Japanese prefecture was devastated by the first of two major earthquakes. (Japan Today)
A man was found dead after being run over by a car on a road in Mooka, Tochigi Prefecture, but police said Tuesday that he may have already been dead after being hit by another car earlier. (Japan Today)
The Osaka District Public Prosecutor's Office has filed charges of drug trafficking against a 40-year-old woman who left a large quantity of illegal drugs inside a fast-food outlet, reports the Asahi Shimbun (April 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
An increasing number of people are using the "furusato nozei" hometown donation program to support Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, which has been hit hard by a recent series of strong earthquakes. (Jiji Press)