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.
Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, became on Tuesday the nation's first municipality to adopt an ordinance allowing it to issue certificates recognizing same-sex relationships as being "equivalent to marriage." (Japan Times)
In the wake of the suspicious crash of a Germanwings jet, the transport ministry is moving quickly to require all Japanese airlines to have two crew members in the cockpit at all times during flights. (Asahi)
The Japanese government said Monday it will send up to 142,600 personnel in emergency teams within 72 hours to 10 prefectures that are expected to suffer tremendous damage in the event of a major earthquake at the Nankai Trough off Japan's Pacific coast. (Jiji Press)
A third-party committee investigating the deaths of 11 patients who received laparoscopic surgery at the Chiba Cancer Center said Monday that at least seven patients received treatment without prior ethical screening despite the extremely difficult nature of the operations, which were not covered by public health insurance. (The Japan News)
Public prosecutors demanded Tuesday that former Aum Supreme Truth cult member Katsuya Takahashi, 56, be sentenced to life in prison for his roles in the 1995 deadly sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway system and other crimes by the doomsday cult. (The Japan News)
An elementary school teacher in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, has been arrested after it was discovered that he had lied to a newspaper reporter regarding the presence of a foreign substance in a rice ball ("onigiri") lunch that he purchased at a convenience store. (Japan Today)
In the first application in Tokyo of a law that seeks to restrict the distribution of sexually explicit content for revenge purposes, police on Friday announced the arrest of a 50-year-old male for releasing illicit images of his former girlfriend, reports the Sankei Shimbun (March 27). (Tokyo Reporter)