Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Three government backed budget-cutting panels operating from temporary premises in a Tokyo gym, have called in a series of bureaucrats to answer for projects deemed unnecessary or too expensive. The live internet broadcast of the resulting stand-offs can make for compelling viewing.
It’s also pleased voters concerned about Japan’s national debt, which is set to approach 200 percent of GDP next year. The website almost crashed on the first day of the hearings, when thousands of people tried to watch the broadcast at once, the Yomiuri newspaper said.
For those who don’t follow it live, edited highlights appear nightly on news programmes, often focusing on Democratic lawmaker Renho, a stylish former TV presenter, as she grills squirming bureaucrats.
“I didn’t know about that (the release time). I’m sorry. Don’t make much of a fuss” Japanese Trade Minister Masayuki Naoshima told a TV reporter on Monday, right after he accidentally revealed the GDP figures ahead of their official release.
If it takes two successive quarters of falling GDP to enter a recession, how can a country emerge from recession with only one quarter of growth? In the past week or so, journalists have declared the recession over in France, Germany and now Japan. Of course, most reports rightly ask how long this will last and stress that a genuine recovery is far from certain.
Some people regard the two quarters definition of a recession as arbitrary and a bit silly, something supposedly cooked up by one of Lyndon Johnson's economic advisers to avoid acknowledging a downturn until after the next election.
It’s official: Japan’s economy shrivelled at a record pace in the first quarter.
Needless to say the 4.0 percent contraction in GDP (an annual rate of 15.2 percent, if you speak American) from January to March was not pretty — especially when you see that the pain has spread from Japan’s big autos and tech factories to the broader economy.
The yen’s fall against the dollar the past few weeks has been remarkably fast, and calculated from where it is now around 97.70 yen, the dollar has jumped nearly 9 percent this month, on track for its biggest such gain since August 1995.
The yen surged last year as the worsening financial crisis forced investors to unwind risky carry trades – meaning they had to buy lots of yen – under the belief that Japan’s economy and banks were holding up through the storm.