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The monetisation of Japan's government debt


  • David E. Lebow

    (U.S. Federal Reserve Board - Macroeconomic Analysis Section)


Japan's government debt is extremely high, especially considering the fact that the data exclude likely future liabilities stemming from an ageing population and possible requirements of the financial system. Nevertheless, an offsetting factor is the degree to which the Bank of Japan has already monetised the debt. The monetary expansion up to the end of 2003 has increased the net worth of the Bank of Japan, properly measured, to more than 17% of GDP, directly reducing the debt position of the consolidated government and central bank - the most relevant measure of the government's fiscal position. Furthermore, the consolidated debt ratio could fall further depending both on the degree to which the monetary expansion is reversed to prevent inflation from rising too much and on the response of nominal interest rates to any temporary inflation that does occur. Under reasonable scenarios, the consolidated government/central bank debt position could be noticeably lower than indicated by commonly cited debt statistics.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Lebow, 2004. "The monetisation of Japan's government debt," BIS Working Papers 161, Bank for International Settlements.
  • Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:161

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Adam S. Posen, 1998. "Restoring Japan's Economic Growth," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 35.
    2. Andolfatto, David, 2003. "Monetary Implications of the Hayashi-Prescott Hypothesis for Japan," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 21(4), pages 1-20, December.
    3. David L. Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2000. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low-inflation era," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 936-978.
    4. John Hawkins, 2003. "Central bank balance sheets and fiscal operations," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Fiscal issues and central banking in emerging economies, volume 20, pages 71-83 Bank for International Settlements.
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    monetisation; Japan; government debt;


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