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Blog
Editor's blog  Jul 09, 2014

Concerning a Target Population of 100 Million

KOMINE Takao, professor at the Graduate School of Regional Policy Design at Hosei University; Project Leader at the 21st Century Public Policy Institute

In Japan, the population peaked in 2008 and then began to decrease, to 127 million in 2013. This change is determined by the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her life). If the rate is 2.07 or higher in Japan, the population will not fall. However, Japan’s total fertility rate has long been dropping, to 1.43 in 2013, which from an international standpoint is extremely low. If this rate changes little from here onward, Japan’s population will continue to decline. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (2012) reports that Japan’s population is expected to decline to 117 million in 2030 and further to 87 million in 2060 (the birth and death rates are assumed to be moderate). In response, in the Basic Policies for the Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2014 approved on June 24... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Jun 05, 2014

Helping Japan Win in Both Technology and Business

KOJIMA Akira, Chairman of World Trade Center Tokyo, Inc., Member, Board of Trustees of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

We often hear it said that Japan wins in technology but loses in business. Japan’s technological prowess is certainly highly regarded worldwide. According to the Global Competition Report, a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is best-known for its annual meeting in Davos, Japanese companies boast world-class technological prowess. And yet Japan ranks just ninth or tenth based on its overall competitive performance. This gap is undoubtedly the gap between Japan’s technological prowess itself and Japan’s ability to apply and use this technology to generate profit, contribute to the economy and society, and improve people’s lives. The Japan Revitalization Strategy, officially approved in a Cabinet Decision in June 2013, often uses the word “innovation.” It also talks about turning Japan into the world’s most innovation-friendly... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Apr 02, 2014

Don’t you buy Womenomics?

IWAMA Yoko, Professor of International Relations, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

"Don’t you buy Womenomics?” Asked this question by an English man in Tokyo, I answered right back, “No, I don’t.” I replied in this manner because a “consciousness revolution” of the roles played by men and women in society and family is required if we are to change their roles in the economy. However, I sense that the chances of this happening under the leadership of the current Liberal Democratic Party are extremely limited. For the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), family is still an important concept, and in fact the majority of party lawmakers support the old concept of family based on the traditional division of labor between men and women, despite their lip service of encouraging women to work outside the home.... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Mar 29, 2014

The Significance of Changes in the Current Account Balance

KOMINE Takao, professor at the Graduate School of Regional Policy Design at Hosei University; Project Leader at the 21st Century Public Policy Institute

Japan’s current account balance had securely and consistently remained in surplus since the 1980s. The current account surplus as a percentage of nominal GDP stood at 2% to 3%. However, a turnaround occurred in 2011, when the surplus started to decline. The current account surplus as a percentage of GDP was at 1.0% in 2012 and 0.7% in 2013. This is because the trade balance, which had been recording a major surplus until then, moved into deficit. So why did the trade balance move into deficit? This change in the trade deficit was a result of a confluence of the following three factors. First, the export volume declined. The export volume in 2012 was 7.4% lower compared with that in 2010. This can be attributed to factors that kept a lid on exports, such as the global economic slowdown as a result of the European debt crisis, the disruption to the supply chain resulting... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Mar 03, 2014

Looking at Japan’s Finances

KOMINE Takao, professor at the Graduate School of Regional Policy Design at Hosei University; Project Leader at the 21st Century Public Policy Institute

Japan’s finances are in pretty bad shape. The so-called Abenomics package of economic policies consists of “three arrows”—namely, monetary easing, increased public investment, and growth strategies. However, many economists believe that the government headed by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo should focus on the reform of state finances as its fourth arrow. In this article, I would like to first explain how serious the state of Japan’s finances is from the perspective of flow and stock. In terms of flow, Japan’s financial deficits, including the deficits posted by the central and local governments, amount to 10.3% of its nominal GDP (according to the OECD Economic Outlook, published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in June 2013; all statistics cited hereinafter are taken from the same material). Japan leads major developed countries in this ratio. (The budget deficit to nominal GDP ratio averages 4.3% among all OECD members.) Looking at stock, Japan’s financial liabilities, including those reported by the central and local governments, equal 228.4% of its nominal GDP. This ratio is also the highest among major global powers. (The ratio of government financial liabilities to nominal GDP averages 111.9% among OECD members.) ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Feb 03, 2014

The Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945

KAMIYA Matake, Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan

Many people abroad seem to be puzzled to see that Japan does not want to obtain nuclear weapons. The security environment that has surrounded Japan since the Cold War era has not been that of peace and calm by any means. Japan was adjacent to the Soviet Union, a superpower that held an immense nuclear arsenal, while China armed itself with nuclear weapons in the 1960s. The first nuclear testing by China was held on October 16, 1964 in the midst of the Tokyo Olympics (China did not participate). The security environment in Japan’s neighboring areas has not improved in the least, even following the end of the Cold War. Europeans, at various international meetings, speak of their own regions with a sense of triumph, noting that their countries feel virtually no threat from military power in other nations. But this kind of fortune has not knocked on Japan’s door. It is quite the opposite and rather, the threat of military power of other countries has intensified in the twenty-four years that followed the end of the Cold War. Specifically, the severity of the nuclear situation surrounding Japan has become more pronounced. North Korea did not keep its promise to the international community and proceeded to develop nuclear arms, having conducted three sets of nuclear tests since 2006. The country has already deployed numerous ballistic missiles, which are means of delivery for nuclear weapons, with nearly all of Japan’s territory within range of the medium-range ballistic ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Feb 03, 2014

Security Policy Reforms of the Abe Administration

IWAMA Yoko, Professor of International Relations, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

December was a busy month for Japanese security specialists. The biggest development came at the end of the month — Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, on December 26. It came as a surprise to all of us, but it seems to have been a well planned and long contemplated move on the part of the prime minister. Abe’s nationalistic views were well known, and that he had publicly said that he deeply regretted the fact that he was unable to go to Yasukuni Shrine during his first premiership was interpreted as meaning that he intended to make a visit this time. All the same, his visit made a deep impact and blew away the positive feeling that had accumulated about his foreign policy. Indeed, Abe had made breakthroughs which had not been achieved in the previous decade. On December 17, he published the first National Security Strategy (NSS) of Japan. In the previous month, the law establishing the National Security Council (NSC) of Japan passed the Diet. The establishment of the NSC had been on the agenda since 2006, but successive governments had failed to pass the necessary legislation. The NSC will be responsible for implementing the National Security Strategy and coordinating different ministries. The Cabinet Bureau’s policy making capacity in the field of security was greatly enhanced by this move. The integration of foreign policy and security policy should be made much easier by this organizational rearrangement.... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Dec 16, 2013

How to Avoid Making Japan’s Equivalent of the NIH a Pie in the Sky Idea

SAKURA Osamu, Ph.D. Professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, University of Tokyo ©AOKI Noboru

The concept for Japan’s equivalent of the NIH has been making progress and is becoming a reality. Although the standards for both Japan’s basic research and its clinical treatment technologies are high, the functions that bridge these two sectors are noticeably inadequate. Consequently, when Japan adopts new treatment methods, it often has no choice but to rely on foreign technologies that are especially from the United States. This has led to detrimental results, including a high royalty burden and a delay in the adoption of new treatments. One reason for this situation is a vertically segmented administration system in which the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology oversees basic research and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare oversees clinical treatments, while the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry oversees industrial applications. It is clearly necessary to do away with this system ... ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Dec 16, 2013

The Prospects for the Japanese Economy with a Higher Consumption Tax

KOMINE Takao Professor, Graduate School of Regional Policy Design, Hosei University; Board member of the Japan Center for Economic Research

It seems that the Japanese economy will undergo a significant change between 2013 and 2014.  The Cabinet Office officially announced in August 2013 that April 2012 was an economic trough. In other words, the economy experienced a downturn after April 2012. That’s because Japanese exports declined when world economic growth slowed due to the European currency crisis and the decelerating Chinese economy.  GDP data shows that Japanese exports declined 0.7% in the April–June quarter of 2012 and 16.8% in the July–September quarter, falling for the second consecutive quarter (real annualized growth; the same applies below). As a result, the GDP growth rate was –1.2% in the April–June quarter and –3.5% in the July–September quarter, shrinking for two quarters in a row.  However, the Japanese economy clearly entered a new phase after November 2012, when the Abe administration was inaugurated, as it appears to have ... ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Dec 16, 2013

Farewell to Mega-pessimism

KOJIMA Akira, Member, Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Trustee, Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER)

After a long period of extreme pessimism, Japan is changing, and this change is attracting overseas attention. As suggested by past buzzwords “Japan passing” and “Japan nothing,” this Far East country has tended to be disregarded, almost neglected, but today global interest in Japan has revived. Japan is also favorably regarded by Asian countries, with the exception of neighboring China and the Koreas. Let me refer to the findings of a recent survey conducted in March–April 2013 by the Pew Research Center based in Washington, D.C. According to the survey, 33% of Japanese citizens surveyed are satisfied with the country’s economy and other general conditions and 40% expect that they will become even better in the next twelve months. Certainly these positive responses represented fewer than half the respondents, but the responses to the same questions posed by the survey in 2002 were just ... ... [Read more]

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