怠慢株式会社は第３の「失われた１０年」に突入か（ＷＳＪ） ― 2010/01/04 18:40
Inaction Inc.: Japan Risks a 3rd Lost Decade
"We regret to inform you that nothing has been decided."
This pretty much sums up Japan's story over the past two decades. Policy makers and corporate leaders have muddled through without conflict, innovation or having to take responsibility for tough decisions.
The results speak for themselves. Japan marked the 20th anniversary of its asset bubble last week, with the Nikkei Stock Average of 225 companies ending 2009 at one-quarter of where it stood on Dec. 29, 1989. Nominal gross domestic product in yen terms is around the level it was shortly after the bubble popped.
The indecision continues. Japan's new administration ended the year by unveiling a plan to raise nominal annual gross-domestic-product growth to an average of 3%-plus over the next 10 years. A detailed road map won't be available until June.
But hitting this and other targets—which include the creation of new demand in the environmental, health and tourism sectors worth $1.1 trillion—will be tough.
Critically, the government's presumed rate of inflation of 1% is difficult to picture. Deflation is expected to continue for several years and Japan still has no plan to overcome it.
How policies will be funded is another question. Already, a government that pledged to make highways free and slash gasoline taxes without having to increase borrowing is backtracking.
On the corporate side, for every successful firm like Honda Motor, there are dozens of companies lulled into complacency by a huge domestic market and silent shareholders.
Some firms, such as Hitachi and its roughly 700 subsidiaries, have too many marginal or money-losing businesses. Others hang on to clearly noncore assets. Instant-ramen maker Nissin Foods owns a golf course.
This isn't to say Japan can't overcome its challenges.
It has done so in the past, rebuilding after World War II and becoming the world's most energy-efficient nation after the 1970s oil shocks. The country has a high-quality work force, leading technology and good basic education and infrastructure.
Japan Inc. still makes things other countries want—in a way rivals still can't. And Japan ranks ahead of the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Italy on measures such as longevity and availability of health care and education, the United Nations says.
But continuing inaction threatens to erode everything. Japan, which looks set to cede its position as the world's second-largest economy to China, simply needs higher growth.
Not least, it needs to fund the burgeoning pension and health-care costs of a rapidly increasing retiree population, with the earnings of a rapidly shrinking work force. Concern about the pension program's viability is a major drag on consumption, too.
Even here, Japan's lawmakers have failed to act.
Benefits need to be cut or burdens on the population, such as sales taxes, need to rise to pay for the ballooning costs. Investment returns also need to increase. Yet already, the new government has delayed a final decision on this to 2013.
A new decade should herald a fresh start, but the more likely outcome may be more of the same: a Japan unable to take radical action.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page C8
_ 良くコメントするようになった読者 ― 2010/01/04 20:28
_ Y-SONODA ― 2010/01/05 07:23
_ 良くコメントするようになった読者 ― 2010/01/05 14:47
_ Y-SONODA ― 2010/01/06 07:50