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Can Japan Make a Comeback?

  • Arne Bigsten

Since the beginning of the 1990s Japan has experienced economic stagnation. The economy had been allowed to overheat in the 1980s and a bubble had been built up. When this burst, there was massive asset-deflation, which led to a banking crisis. The bad debts were not faced up to effectively. Japanese banks could not achieve high enough margins to recapitalise themselves, and the government was for a long time reluctant to intervene effectively. The shock made economic agents more pessimistic, which led to an imbalance between savings and investment-demand. Excess savings were placed abroad and used to finance a domestic fiscal deficit, but this was not enough to close the gap and sustain growth. To be able to run a large current account surplus the yen needed to depreciate, but this was not achieved due to expectations about a future appreciation. The strategy to get out of the liquidity trap would include credible inflation targeting and yen depreciation. Monetary policy should have an inflation target well above zero per cent. Such macroeconomic measures need to be complemented by structural reforms such as deregulation of financial services, competition policy and reallocation of public investments. The Japanese development model with close connections between firms and banks needs to be reformed. Japan should be able to achieve stable growth again, but since the catch-up phase is over one would not expect growth in Japan to be higher than in other developed countries, even if Japan undertakes the needed reforms. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2005.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal The World Economy.

Volume (Year): 28 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (04)
Pages: 595-606

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Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:28:y:2005:i:4:p:595-606
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  1. Paul D. McNelis & Naoyuki Yoshino, 2004. "Deciphering the Message in Japanese Deflation Dynamics," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 3(2), pages 49-70.
  2. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Monetary Policy in a Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 9968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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