Monday, May 30, 2011

What a Difference a Day (25 Years) Makes

If Japan fails to end industrial policy, its postwar developmentalism may be judged a failure.
--Yasusuke Murakami, 1996

Maria Grever - Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado
You might recognize the melody. It is "What a Difference a Day Makes." 
This song was written by a Mexican composer named Maria Grever 
and it was originally in Spanish!

"How could this have happened?" Japan, the nation that just 25 ~ 30-years ago was predicted by many to dominate the world spent most of the 1990's and the 2000's just struggling to stay afloat. In fact, the only reason why Japan did stay afloat was massive government spending on useless public works projects and the like.

Today, Japan's debt stands at 225% of GDP. The cupboards are laid bare and with the continuing troubles all around the world with rising food and oil prices, not to mention the recent disaster in Japan do not bode well. Things are headed for a clash this year, I predict.

Mike Whitney says:

....(USA) unemployment is on the rise (Initial claims rose to 424,000 on Thursday), GDP is falling (1Q GDP revised to 1.8%), durable goods are down 3.6 percent in April, the market is topping out, business investment is flat, Europe's on the ropes, Japan is in a historic slump, China is overheating, the output gap is as wide as it was 6 quarters ago, bank balance sheets are bleeding red from falling home prices and non-performing loans, and the housing market is crashing.

Most of the rest of the article that Whitney wrote is pure Keynesian nonsense but he had the above information correct. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I have recommended stocking up on food and water and think you should do the same.... Especially if you live in an earthquake prone country like Japan. Because if something happens, all the stores will sell out of water and most foods within a day, if that long.

The store shelves always look full because they are constantly restocked throughout the day. What's going to happen when something bad happens and the delivery trucks stop running?

Japan, in particular is in a very precarious position today. 

In 1998, Richard Katz wrote a book entitled, Japan: The System that Soured (The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Economic Miracle). It was one of any books at the time that speeled out what went wrong with the Japanese economic miracle. I bought the book when it first came out and still have it. I am amazed at how much this writer had predicted that has come true. 

He wrote: 

"Without sweeping structural reforms, Japan will continue to stagnate. Japan's productivity growth is so dismal these days that, even if it operated at full capacity, economists say the fastest it could grow is around 2 percent or so. That's half the 4 percent rate it averaged from 1975 to 1990. And yet; because of Japan's myriad macroeconomic problems, Japan has commonly been unable to operate at full capacity. In four out of the six years since fiscal 1992, Japan has grown less than 1 percent, and in three of those four years less than 0.5 percent. Japan grew less over the entire five-year period from mid-1992 through mid-1997 than it did in the single year of 1990. Unless there is massive budgetary stimulus, this negligible growth is expected to continue through at least 1998 and 1999 (see Figure 1.1). By the dawn of the new millennium, Japan will have spent an entire decade growing more slowly than the United States, the nation it was supposedly "on track to overtake by the year 2000."

"Nor is this a temporary slump. According to official forecasts, without reforms, even at full capacity, the fastest growth Japan could sustain between now and 2010 is only 1.8 percent a year. After 2010, says the normally optimistic MITI, the combination of poor productivity and a declining labor force means it will get worse. Japan's growth potential will plunge to only 0.8 percent a year."

It astounds me that this writer was so aptly able to predict the future growth rate of Japan.

I remember when I first read this, I thought, "Japan will recover!" Now, I am not so sure.

As the quote at the top of this post suggests, if Japan cannot reform its postwar industrial policy, it will be deemed a failure. The only way that is ever going to happen is that the political system that strangles Japan must collapse. The Good Old Boys and vested interests must go.

The only way that the people are going to rise up and demand that is the bottom is going to have to fall out. Just as a drug addict or alcoholic must hit rock bottom before he will admit his problems and seek help, this country will have to collapse under the strain of a massive debt to GDP ratio.

Japan is headed for some very tough times and some very difficult decisions... It's rainy season now in Japan and the weather is cool.... But in about six weeks, it's going to start getting very hot. And I don't think that is just the temperature of the summer days... I think things are all falling into place for some very difficult times for everyone. Not just Japan.

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