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.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that up to 6 tons of water have leaked after being processed with water-cleaning equipment at the Fukushima No. 1 power station at the center of the 2011 nuclear disaster. (Jiji Press)
Sony Pictures has canceled the Dec. 25 release of "The Interview" after hackers threatened terrorists attacks and the largest multiplex chains in North America pulled the film from its screens. (Japan Times)
The Chiba Public Safety Commission has banned a 29-year-old man from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, from riding a bicycle for 90 days, after he was found guilty of cycling under the influence of "kiken" quasi-legal drugs. (Japan Times)
Heavy snow caused a power outage along parts of the Joetsu Shinkansen Line for about six hours on Sunday morning, leaving some 300 passengers trapped in a bullet train for 2½ hours near the mountainous southern border of Niigata Prefecture. (Japan Times)