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Why has Japan’s Massive Government Debt Not Wreaked Havoc (Yet)?

Author

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  • Charles Yuji Horioka

    (School of Economics, University of the Philippines; National Bureau of Economic Research; and Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University)

  • Takaaki Nomoto

    (Office of Regional and Economic Integration, Asian Development Bank)

  • Akiko Terada-Hagiwara

    (Economic and Research Department, Asian Development Bank)

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 make it necessary for Japan to get its fiscal house in order. Thus, Japan’s massive government debt has not wreaked havoc in the past because of robust domestic saving and a temporary inflow of foreign capital caused by the Global Financial Crisis, but it may wreak havoc in the future as both of these factors become less applicable unless the government debt can be brought under control.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Yuji Horioka & Takaaki Nomoto & Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, 2013. "Why has Japan’s Massive Government Debt Not Wreaked Havoc (Yet)?," UP School of Economics Discussion Papers 201310, University of the Philippines School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:phs:dpaper:201310
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    File URL: http://www.econ.upd.edu.ph/dp/index.php/dp/article/view/714/187
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Horioka, Charles Yuji, 1990. "Why is Japan's household saving rate so high? A literature survey," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 49-92, March.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
    3. Horioka, Charles Yuji & Terada-Hagiwara, Akiko, 2012. "The determinants and long-term projections of saving rates in Developing Asia," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 128-137.
    4. Charles Yuji Horioka, 2000. "A Cointegration Analysis of the Impact of the Age Structure of the Population on the Household Saving Rate in Japan," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(3), pages 511-516, August.
    5. Horioka, Charles Yuji, 1992. "Future trends in Japan's saving rate and the implications thereof for Japan's external imbalance," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 307-330, April.
    6. Feldstein, Martin & Horioka, Charles, 1980. "Domestic Saving and International Capital Flows," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(358), pages 314-329, June.
    7. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 339-412 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Horioka, C.Y., 1989. "The Determinants Of Japan'S Saving Rate: The Impact Of The Age Structure Of The Population And Other Factors," ISER Discussion Paper 0189, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    9. Charles Yuji Horioka & Akiko Terada- Hagiwara, 2013. "Savings and investment," Chapters,in: Asia Rising, chapter 5, pages 137-153 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Apergis, Nicholas & Tsoumas, Chris, 2009. "A survey of the Feldstein-Horioka puzzle: What has been done and where we stand," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 64-76, June.
    11. Habib, Maurizio M. & Stracca, Livio, 2012. "Getting beyond carry trade: What makes a safe haven currency?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 50-64.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    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. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Government debt; government securities; government bonds; government bills; government notes; sovereign debt; debt securities; debt financing; government debt financing; debt holdings; government debt holdings; foreign debt; foreign debt holdings; foreign debt investments; foreign investors; capital flows; international capital flows; short-term capital movements; cross-border portfolio investments; safe haven; capital flight; flight to safety; debt rollover; home bias; sovereign debt crisis; eurozone crisis; eurozone; Japan;

    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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