Markets are busy speculating on which country might follow Egypt on the revolutionary road, but watch out for the impact on a country where bellies are full and the chances of revolt are exactly nil: Japan.
The same inflation in food and energy which fanned discontent in Tunisia and Egypt could badly hit real wages and purchasing power among Japanese citizens, potentially undermining their willingness to hang on to the debt which the government desperately needs them to own.
That’s right, deflation could actually ease in Japan and, that’s right, its demise could help tip the country into the long-awaited financing crisis.
It is not the bond market vigilantes who are likely to precipitate a debt crisis in Japan, it is Mr and Mrs Watanabe, the archetypal small saver, who have patiently held Japanese government debt in huge amounts despite very low interest rates.
It is the existence of the Watanabes (domestic holdings of Japanese debt are about 94 percent vs about 50 percent in the U.S.) who have allowed Japan to run its debt up to 196 percent of GDP, trailing only Zimbabwe. By comparison, Greece’s debt to GDP ratio is just 137 percent.