Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Japan's Debt to GDP Ratio Surpasses 200%

The Japanese government keeps spending this country into oblivion. After 20 years of repeated efforts at stimulating the economy - with the opposite effect of causing deflation - they keep trying the same old game. When will they ever learn?

The answer is "Never!"

As the BBC announced:

Japan's parliament has passed a stimulus package worth about $61bn, designed to kick-start the country's fragile economic recovery. The stimulus was designed to create jobs, Prime Minister Nato Kan said, through measures to help small businesses and boost consumer spending. The government has already introduced several stimulus packages. Earlier, figures showed that Japanese consumer prices fell for the 20th month in a row in October.

Now, it looks like because of these failed efforts, the rubicon has been passed. Japan's fiscal debt has now surpassed 200% of GDP.

    The Land of the Rising Sun has the dubious distinction of sporting the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any industrialized nation in the world. Now greater than 200%, Japan’s relative debt load is bigger than that of Greece, Spain, Portugal or the US. Japan needs to borrow over 50% of GDP this year just to stay afloat, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and its financing needs are expected to reach almost 60% of GDP next year. (See graph below.) Its strength has been somewhat befuddling, especially considering this growing burden of debt. Why has the Japanese currency been so strong? Because despite all of the yen’s problems, Japan runs a trade surplus. Traders view that surplus as a source of funding which can be used to pay down Japan’s skyrocketing debt, making the yen seem like a “flight-to-quality” currency despite appearances. However, Japan’s strong currency is beginning to affect Japan’s ability to export. Competition from China and rising Asian powers such as Vietnam is also beginning to take its toll. Japanese industrial output fell 1.9% in September after dropping 1% in August.

Silver and Gold took a drop today from weeks of growth. I hope you have some. If not, now's the time to buy.


Anonymous said...

Better than the US...

Andy "In Japan" said...

When will they stop? When there's nothing left to steal.

Stimulus my rear end. They are simply counterfeiting money and using it to fund money losing schemes that benefit the politicians and their cronies. This sort of criminal activity will NEVER improve the economy. This so called stimulus only benefits the ruling elites, at everyone elses expense.

Publius said...

Um, the problem is PRIVATE DEBT, not public debt (the public sector, unlike the private sector, can always fund itself as its the monopoly issuer of its own currency) - the private sector has been develeveraging thanks to its 1990s real estate bubble. Without the cashflows of government spending, Japan would have suffered a debt-deflation.

So what we have learnt is once confidence is restored, and the balance sheets of the corporate sector are repaired, government can back away. Governments' don't need to issue bonds to spend (and there really isn't much point to it). I mean you're getting deflation after all!

"keeps spending this country into oblivion" - EXPLAIN HOW? Taxes don't even fund government spending - the central bank credits bank accounts totally independent of a governments' ability to raise taxes. That's how the war debt was "paid off" - ticking a button. Please see:

Basically, Japan has proved:
1) high deficits don't cause inflation
2) nor do they "crowd out" investment by raising interest rates
3) add to savings

So my advice to Japan is to continue to increase its deficit till it reaches full employment and the private sector repairs its balance sheets. There is no solvency risk when you are the monopoly issuer of your own currency.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Dear Publius,

I couldn't disagree more with this Keynesian madness. Twenty years (now heading on thirty) of this deficit spending nonsense has gotten Japan nowhere.

Your argument is so full of holes that I don't know where to begin. First off, the idea that "taxes don't even fund government spending" is just plain absurd. The government doesn't have any money. The government takes money in taxes from the public. That's how it spends.

Then you write, "So what we have learnt is once confidence is restored, and the balance sheets of the corporate sector are repaired, government can back away." Right. How many years does this continue? It's been more than twenty.

Then you add, "So my advice to Japan is to continue to increase its deficit till it reaches full employment and the private sector repairs its balance sheets." Once again, how many years do we continue this madness? It's already been twenty. Our debt has already surpassed 200% of GDP.

Under your confused thinking, we can go 30 or 40 years? Shall we go to 1000% of GDP? How shall we restore confidence when our creditworthy rating keeps getting cut as it did just two weeks ago? On top of that, how, pray tell, do you expect Japan to "restore confidence" and "reach full employment" when nearly 51% of the population is now over 55 years old?

Sheesh! Right.... Have another glass of Kool-aid my friend.... Japan should keep spending and everything will be fine.... Yep... We have the last 20 years as proof of that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,
Hahahaha - excellent, ouch, hmmm, this Publius fellow needs a full 101 class on "where does money come from" and "what does labor mean" before we can start chatting with him, a tiny nose plastic surgery won't suffice to bring this guy back on sane tracks, he clearly needs an immediate full heart and brain transplant... :)

Obviously, you and I think alike, from what you wrote... hehehe..."Your argument is so full of holes that I don't know where to begin."I share your pain, my friend.

Well, to reply to this guy we would need to go way back and start with full blow "basics" with him - from what I usually personally hear, I believe we are confronted with a mild case of "Keynesianitis", the first clear symptoms being that the guy speaks as if 1. "government has money of its own" and 2. as if "money is defined by pieces of paper with numbers on them". I won't argue that this kind of confusion isn't "tempting" - this is how it all "looks" and "feels" to many (/most) today. Complications of "Kenyesianitis" show up when people start suggesting that "if the private sector is in pain then the government should spend ", and several other fallacies we are both already too familiar with...

Our friend "Publius" is completely (like, totally) off the charts - unreachable to most without some electro-shock treatment, and I would need a full day with this guy to bring him back to his senses, so I would invite you to avoid wasting too much time and try to point him in the direction of this one video:

(maybe a bit "childish" - but still, it's remains a decent remedy to cure most benign Keynesian infections)

Marc Abela

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