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Why Has Japan's Massive Government Debt Not Wreaked Havoc (Yet)?

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  • Charles Y. Horioka
  • Takaaki Nomoto
  • Akiko Terada-Hagiwara

Abstract

In this paper, we present data on trends over time in government debt financing in Japan since 2010 with emphasis on the importance of foreign holders and speculate about the determinants of those trends. We find that Japanese government securities were held primarily by domestic holders until recently because robust domestic saving (combined with strong home bias) made it possible for domestic investors to absorb most of the government debt but that foreign holdings of Japanese government securities have increased sharply in recent years, especially in the case of short-term government securities. We show that trends in foreign holdings of Japanese government securities can be explained by conventional economic factors such returns and risks and that the recent surge in foreign holdings of short-term Japanese government securities is attributable to foreign investors in search of a safe haven for their funds in the face of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 precipitated by the Lehman crisis. Our analysis suggests that the surge in foreign holdings of Japanese government securities will subside (in fact, it already has), and this, combined with the projected decline in domestic saving (especially household saving) caused by population aging, will create increasing pressures for fiscal adjustment to reduce her massive government debt. Thus, Japan's massive government debt has not resulted in high economic costs in the past because of robust domestic saving and a temporary inflow of foreign capital caused by the Global Financial Crisis, but it may have substantial costs in the future as both of these factors become less applicable unless the government debt can be brought under control.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Y. Horioka & Takaaki Nomoto & Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, 2013. "Why Has Japan's Massive Government Debt Not Wreaked Havoc (Yet)?," NBER Working Papers 19596, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19596
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    1. High Japanese debt will become a problem
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-11-22 21:52:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Debra Bloch & Falilou Fall, 2016. "Government Debt Indicators:Understanding the Data," Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy (JICEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(01), pages 1-28, February.
    2. Horioka, Charles Yuji & Terada-Hagiwara, Akiko & Nomoto, Takaaki, 2015. "Explaining Foreign Holdings of Asia's Debt Securities: The Feldstein-Horioka Paradox Revisited," AGI Working Paper Series 2015-16, Asian Growth Research Institute.
    3. Vito Tanzi, 2016. "Pleasant Dreams or Nightmares, in the Public Debts Scenarios?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 69(09), pages 27-35, May.
    4. Ly Dai Hung, 2020. "Public Safe Assets Determination," Global Economic Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(4), pages 350-368, October.
    5. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2019. "The Impact of the Bank of Japan's Monetary Policy on Japanese Government Bonds' Low Nominal Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_938, Levy Economics Institute.
    6. Tanweer Akram & Syed Al-Helal Uddin, 2021. "The Empirics of Long-Term Mexican Government Bond Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_984, Levy Economics Institute.
    7. Tanweer Akram, 2020. "A Note Concerning Government Bond Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_977, Levy Economics Institute.
    8. Tanweer Akram & Syed Al-Helal Uddin, 2021. "An empirical analysis of long-term Brazilian interest rates," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(9), pages 1-20, September.
    9. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2018. "The Dynamics of Japanese Government Bonds' Nominal Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_906, Levy Economics Institute.
    10. Tanweer Akram, 2020. "A Simple Model of the Long-Term Interest Rate," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_951, Levy Economics Institute.
    11. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2020. "Some Empirical Models of Japanese Government Bond Yields Using Daily Data," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_962, Levy Economics Institute.
    12. Vito Tanzi, 2016. "Pleasant Dreams or Nightmares, in the Public Debts Scenarios?," Working Papers Department of Economics 2016/10, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    13. Tanweer Akram & Anupam Das, 2018. "Australian Government Bonds' Nominal Yields: An Empirical Analysis," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_910, Levy Economics Institute.
    14. Tanweer Akram & Anupam Das, 2020. "The Empirics of Canadian Government Securities Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_944, Levy Economics Institute.
    15. Tanweer Akram & Anupam Das, 2020. "Australian Government Bonds’ Nominal Yields: A Keynesian Perspective," Annals of Financial Economics (AFE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 15(01), pages 1-20, March.
    16. Tanweer Akram, 2021. "A Note Concerning the Dynamics of Government Bond Yields," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 66(2), pages 323-339, October.
    17. Tanweer Akram & Syed Al-Helal Uddin, 2020. "An Empirical Analysis of Long-Term Brazilian Interest Rates," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_956, Levy Economics Institute.
    18. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2020. "The Empirics of UK Gilts' Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_969, Levy Economics Institute.
    19. Anupam Das & Tanweer Akram, 2020. "A Keynesian analysis of Canadian government securities yields," PSL Quarterly Review, Economia civile, vol. 73(294), pages 241-260.
    20. Ly-Dai, Hung, 2018. "Public Safe Assets Determination," MPRA Paper 90237, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Oct 2018.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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