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Happy News from the Dismal Science: Reassessing the Japanese Fiscal Policy and Sustainability

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  • Christian Broda
  • David E. Weinstein

Abstract

We analyze fiscal policy and fiscal sustainability in Japan using a variant of the methodology developed in Blanchard (1990). We find that Japan can achieve fiscal sustainability over a 100-year horizon with relatively small changes in the tax-to-GDP ratio. Our analysis differs from more pessimistic analyses in several dimensions. First, since Japanese net debt is only half that of gross debt, we demonstrate that the current debt burden is much lower than is typically reported. This means that monetization of the debt will have little impact on Japan's fiscal sustainability because Japan's problem is the level of future liabilities not current ones. Second, we argue that one obtains very different projections of social security burdens based on the standard assumption that Japan's population is on a trend towards extinction rather than transitioning to a new lower level. Third, we demonstrate that some modest cost containment of the growth rate of real per capita benefits, such as cutting expenditures for shrinking demographic categories, can dramatically lower the necessary tax burden. In sum, no scenario involves Japanese taxes rising above those in Europe today and many result in tax-to-GDP ratios comparable to those in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2004. "Happy News from the Dismal Science: Reassessing the Japanese Fiscal Policy and Sustainability," NBER Working Papers 10988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10988
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Faruqee, Hamid & Muhleisen, Martin, 2003. "Population aging in Japan: demographic shock and fiscal sustainability," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 185-210, April.
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    5. Yukinobu Kitamura & Noriyuki Takayama, 1999. "Lessons from Generational Accounting in Japan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 171-175, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. IWATA Yasuharu, 2009. "Fiscal Policy in an Estimated DSGE Model of the Japanese Economy: Do Non-Ricardian Households Explain All?," ESRI Discussion paper series 216, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    2. Mitsuru Iwamura & Takeshi Kudo & Tsutomu Watanabe, 2005. "Monetary and fiscal policy in a liquidity trap: the Japanese experience 1999-2004," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    3. Mitsuru Iwamura & Takeshi Kudo & Tsutomu Watanabe, 2005. "Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap: The Japanese Experience 1999-2004," Discussion papers 05009, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    4. Levy-Yeyati, Eduardo & Sturzenegger, Federico, 2007. "A Balance-Sheet Approach to Fiscal Sustainability," Working Paper Series rwp07-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Gary Saxonhouse & Robert Stern, 2005. "Reversal of fortune: Macroeconomic policy, International Finance, and Banking in Japan," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 91-100, November.
    6. Botman, Dennis & Edison, Hali & N'Diaye, Papa, 2009. "Strategies for fiscal consolidation in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 151-160, March.
    7. Mitsuru Iwamara & Takeshi Kudo & Tsutomu Watanabe, 2005. "Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap: The Japanese Experience 1999-2004," NBER Working Papers 11151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Toshihiro Ihori, 2006. "Fiscal policy and fiscal reconstruction in Japan," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 13(4), pages 489-508, August.
    9. Laurence M. Ball, 2006. "Fiscal Remedies for Japan's Slump," NBER Chapters,in: Monetary Policy with Very Low Inflation in the Pacific Rim, NBER-EASE, Volume 15, pages 279-306 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. James Harrigan & Kenneth Kuttner, 2004. "Lost Decade in Translation: Did the US Learn from Japan's Post-Bubble Mistakes?," NBER Working Papers 10938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Toshihiro Ihori & Ryuta Ray Kato & Masumi Kawade & Shun-ichiro Bessho, 2005. "Public Debt and Economic Growth in an Aging Japan," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-372, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    12. Tomomi Miyazaki & Kazuki Onji, 2017. "The Sustainability of Japan's Government Debt: A Review," Discussion Papers 1716, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
    13. Yasuharu Iwata, 2011. "The Government Spending Multiplier and Fiscal Financing: Insights from Japan," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(2), pages 231-264, June.
    14. Sinha, Pankaj & Arora, Varun & Bansal, Vishakha, 2011. "Determinants of Public Debt for middle income and high income group countries using Panel Data regression," MPRA Paper 32079, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Ihori, Toshihiro & Kato, Ryuta Ray & Kawade, Masumi & Bessho, Shun-ichiro, 2011. "Health insurance reform and economic growth: Simulation analysis in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 227-239.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt

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