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.
The last section of the Joban Expressway, designed to connect the Tokyo metropolitan area with the Tohoku northeastern region, opened to traffic on Sunday after delays caused by the nuclear crisis that began almost four years ago. (The Japan News)
A 57-year-old man being investigated on a charge of possession of illegal drugs, who escaped from police by stealing a taxi in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Feb 6, has turned himself in a police station. (Japan Today)
One of three male teenagers arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing a 13-year-old boy along the Tama River in Kawasaki has told police that the ringleader threatened him, too, with death, investigative sources said Sunday. (Japan Times)
Japanese actress Rei Dan has been appointed an international goodwill ambassador for Japanese cuisine ("washoku"). Her mission is to spread appreciation for the many charms of "washoku," the agriculture ministry said. (Japan Today)