Economy Failing Japan
Japan is currently facing a dour economic situation comparable to  2011 when a tsunami struck Japan’s eastern coast. Following the tsunami, Japan’s economy started to shrink to 6.9 percent and is now down to its lowest rate since the environmental disaster.

Economists attribute Japan’s most recent third-quarter recession to lack of investment in housing in addition to a rise in taxes enacted as a part of a series of reforms. The value-added tax (VAT) has caused the world’s third-largest economy to shrink into recession.

The unpopular rise in taxes comes at an unfortunate time for current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is seeking reelection.

Another burdening issue for Japan is the vast economic debt it has garnered. The debt is due to the inequality between revenue and expenditures and Tokyo’s inability to address this serious problem.

As a major player in the world economic system, Japan’s recession is affecting U.S. markets as well. It could negatively impact the U.S. economy because Japan consumes a large number of U.S. goods as its fourth-largest trading partner. A surprising number of American-brand luxury retailers rely on Japanese consumers to buy their products.

On the bright side, however, the country is currently projected to increase the quantity of exports as demand is likely to rise. Japan is currently pursuing low interest rates offered by the central bank on long-term borrowing. This will allow Japan to rise slowly out of public debt while not incurring the backlash of high interest rates.

Prime Minister Abe outlined a three-step solution to resolve the economic crisis in 2012. First, the Bank of Japan increases inflation followed by increased government monetary spending including a hefty stimulus package. The last step of “Abenomics,” as the Prime Minister’s plan has been dubbed, is to completely restructure the system by implementing tax cuts and other long-term reforms.

Abenomics is essentially the coupling of short-term policies with long-term, structural reforms aimed at strengthening the overall economy. However, the projected benefits of “Abenomics” have yet to be seen and increased taxes have plunged the economy into recession.

Eventually, the system is meant to result in higher wages that will allow an increase in consumer spending over time.

Maxine Gordon

Sources: Yahoo Finance, The Economist, Trading Economics, CFR, Reuters
Photo: Foreign Affairs