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2015年10月23日 (金)

社説:設備投資の拡大 政府の干渉は筋違いだ

October 23, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Gov't pressure on private firms to boost investment unreasonable
社説:設備投資の拡大 政府の干渉は筋違いだ

With its establishment of a public-private consultative body aimed at encouraging companies to increase capital investment, the government looks to be shoving a meddling hand into the management machinery of private businesses, all to prop up the economy.

The government is desperate as a virtuous economic cycle buoying growth and wages has failed to materialize nearly three years after the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched its "Abenomics" policy mix to kick-start the economy.

However, whether to expand capital investments is something that private companies should decide on at their own discretion, and it is unreasonable for the government to intervene in business management.

The government believes that companies have chosen to save their profits rather than invest in plants and equipment.

Numerous major companies have posted record-breaking profits thanks to the devaluation of the yen and other factors.

Companies' internal cash reserves reached 354 trillion yen in fiscal 2014, an increase of 50 trillion yen from fiscal 2012, before Abenomics shifted into high gear.

In contrast, Finance Ministry statistics shows that corporate capital investment in Japan in fiscal 2014 came to 40 trillion yen, up only 5 trillion yen from fiscal 2012.

At the first meeting of the public-private consultative body, Prime Minister Abe urged representatives of companies to "specifically present their prospects for expanding their investments in plants and equipment."

Akira Amari, state minister in charge of economic revitalization, also said, "If companies' commitment to capital investment is weak, we'll further urge them to increase these investments."

Corporate investment in plants and equipment is a key to economic growth.

Capital investment in areas covered by the term "the fourth industrial revolution," including artificial intelligence and big data, are of growing importance.

Efforts to make effective use of funds for these sectors are indispensable.

Still, a decision on whether to make capital investments should be left to the discretion of individual companies, as the failure of projects in which companies have invested massive amounts of money could deal a serious blow to their management.

It is not true that companies have failed to proactively make capital investments.

They are increasing their capital investment overseas, particularly in emerging countries.

They do not appear inclined to invest in Japan because the domestic market is contracting due to the low birthrate and depopulation.

The value of mergers and acquisitions of foreign businesses by Japanese firms hit a record high total of 8 trillion yen in fiscal 2014.

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, said, "Corporate executives are making investments in the most appropriate manner in the global economy."

The government has also urged companies to raise wages for their employees.

The government's request that companies make more capital investments on top of salary hikes has made it look like Japan's economy is managed at the initiative of the government.

Such a practice could distort companies' business strategies and dampen private sector dynamism.

The government's role in expanding corporate capital investment should be limited to creating an environment that will facilitate such growth.

At the public-private consultative body meeting, an attendee representing the business community pointed out that "reform of regulations that hinder investment should be prioritized."

The government should promote regulatory reform and introduce tax breaks to encourage businesses to invest in growth fields such as environmental protection and energy.

It is also necessary for the government to step up countermeasures against population decline.

The current economic stagnation is attributable largely to slumping consumer spending.

The yen has become weaker due to credit easing -- one of the pillars of Abenomics -- and subsequent rises in the prices of foodstuffs and other goods have increased the financial burden on households.

The prime minister has declared that Abenomics has entered its second stage, and set a goal of expanding Japan's gross domestic product to 600 trillion yen.

However, the government cannot see a clear road map for propping up the economy even if it encourages companies to increase capital investment without reviewing its past economic policy measures.

毎日新聞 2015年10月23日 東京朝刊


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