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2011年2月16日 (水)

GDPマイナス 足踏みからの着実な回復図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 16, 2011)
Aim for steady economic recovery
GDPマイナス 足踏みからの着実な回復図れ(2月15日付・読売社説)

Although the margin of Japan's negative economic growth in the fourth quarter last year was smaller than anticipated, we remain concerned about this nation's economic prospects.

In a preliminary report released Monday by the Cabinet Office, the nation's gross domestic product for the October-December period in real terms fell by a seasonally adjusted, annualized 1.1 percent from the previous quarter. This figure backed up previous observations that the economic recovery paused in the second half of last year.

On a more positive note, consumer spending and production appear to have gradually improved since the beginning of this year. Many private research institutes have projected a moderate recovery for the January-March quarter.

However, there are still many reasons to feel uneasy. To put the economy firmly on the recovery track, it will be vital for the government and the Bank of Japan to continue implementing policies that prioritize economic growth, such as maintaining an easy-money policy.


A mix of good and bad

In the fourth quarter last year, domestic demand shrank for the first time in five quarters due to a temporary lull in consumer spending resulting partly from a fall in vehicle sales after the government subsidy program for eco-friendly car purchases ended in September.

A consumer buying spree for flat-screen TVs and other home electronic appliances before the government's eco-point program for energy-efficient appliances was scaled back in December helped make up for the sluggish car sales.

Although overseas demand declined due to the prolonged rise in the yen's value and the global economic slowdown, Japan's exports to other Asian nations and the United States remained steady.

Consequently, Japan's GDP recorded a yearly increase for the first time in three years, in both real and nominal terms.

The data in the report reconfirmed that Japan's economy has finally managed to emerge from the serious recession that started after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in autumn 2008.

That being said, there is still little room for optimism on the country's economic prospects. Sharp rises in global prices of natural resources and grains, such as oil and wheat, are pushing up prices of raw materials, which is beginning to bite into corporate profits. Japan's employment situation remains severe; the unemployment rate has stayed stubbornly high.


Overtaken by China

Despite these worrying circumstances, Diet deliberations on the fiscal 2011 budget and related bills--which are essential to support and boost the economy--have made little progress. The government must make more efforts to pass these bills through the Diet as soon as possible by reviewing the controversial child-rearing allowance program and other wasteful hand-out policies.

The Cabinet Office also confirmed that China's GDP surpassed that of Japan in nominal terms on a U.S. dollar basis in 2010.

Japan was crowned the world's second-largest economy, behind the United States, when it eclipsed West Germany in 1968. After 42 years, Japan has relinquished this position to China.

China's rapid economic growth has created a massive market that should provide plenty of lucrative opportunities for the Japanese economy.

Unfortunately, the scale of Japan's economy remains at about the same level as it was two decades ago. Although the government should not blindly aim to expand the scale of Japan's economy, it needs to steadily promote strategies that ensure society maintains a certain level of wealth.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 15, 2011)
(2011年2月15日00時04分  読売新聞)


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