Week of November 30, 2015
- Japan’s defense budget will top for the first time JPY 5 trillion or apr. EUR 37 billion. “Japan occupies a rapidly changing security landscape”, writes the Nikkei. "China's military spending has multiplied by a factor of 3.6 over the past 10 years, dramatically increasing its fighter jets, submarines and other weapons. The Chinese outspent Japan on defense by more than three to one in fiscal 2015. Meanwhile, North Korea is believed to be developing better ballistic missiles and smaller nuclear warheads to fit on them.”
- Japan is at risk of cyber attacks on its essential infrastructure by Islamic State, says Taro Kono, the country’s minister in charge of public safety in an interview two weeks after a series of lethal terrorist attacks in Paris. That might be less frightening than a real terrorist attack, but with the upcoming Tokyo olympics in 2020 it is a real threat anyway (Bloomberg).
- Japan’s corporate tax rates are to be lowered to 29.97% au lieu of 32.11%. Still high, but now comparable to Germany’s tax rates according to the Nikkei.
- “Raise wages with 10%” is the advise by three senior economists in the Financial Times. Inflation is needed as it erodes the enormous public debt and unorthodox measures are needed to cope with the current inflation / deflation level (Financial Times).
- The world’s largest pension fund, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund or GPIF, started a new strategy by increasing its investment in equities - and lost 5.6% of its value in Q3 (Financial Times).
- Until some years ago, the status of Japan's economy could be measured by the number of taxis and the occupancy of its golf courses. Alas, forget about the last category: every week one golf course closes its greens. I can assure you: there are very, very beautiful golf courses to be found in Japan and now some of them end up as solar parks (Financial Times).
- Nissan is to manufacture one of its top-line cars, the Q30 Infinity, in Sutherland, UK. Nissan invested GBP 400 million in this facility. Interesting ratio: 300 workers for 130 robots (or: 130 robots need to be taken care of by 300 people; Financial Times).
- Toshiba and Fujitsu entered into talks to merge their ailing PC divisions. If the merger is realised, Toshiba and Fujitsu will be ranked seventh in the global market for laptops and desktop computers with a combined share of 5.6 per cent in 2014. That compares with 16.4 per cent held by Lenovo, 15.6 per cent held by Hewlett-Packard, and Apple’s 6 per cent.
- Why are so many Chinese tourists coming to Japan? 4 weeks ago I took the boat to Shodoshima Island, 2.5 hours off Kobe and to my surprise also here: bus loads full of Chinese and Taiwanese visitors. It is not all for shopping. Wang Yin, a Nagoya-based Chinese postgraduate student who researches Chinese tourist behaviour, shows the percentage of respondents from her homeland selecting “viewing countryside” or “appreciation of traditional culture and arts” as reasons for visiting Japan came to 29 and 26% respectively. This is more than the 15% that nominated “convenience in shopping” as motivation for their visit. That’s no surprise to me: with its old culture and often very artisanal manufacturing (sake, soy sauce, even olive oil) Japan is also an ideal holiday country - and it is above all very safe… (Japan Today).
- … However, don’t commit any crime in Japan: here two articles in The Economist on Japan’s prison system. The first one deals with forced confessions. One lawyer estimates that a tenth of all convictions leading to prison are based on false confessions. It is impossible to know the true figure, but when 99.8% of prosecutions end in a guilty verdict, it is clear that the scales of justice are out of balance.
The second article one deals with prison life in Japan and that is very, very tough. The system is clearly focusing on a re-integration in the system that we call society, but at what cost? Not mentioned in this article is that for all prisoners working is compulsory. 8 hours a day and what I read elsewhere is that all prisoners learn a craft (wood crafting, car repair, metal working). 15 years ago a French TV station made a documentary about it: JAPAN FROM INSIDE - LE JAPON A DOUBLE TOUR - 2000 - 60 minutes. Not much has been changed since. So when visiting Japan, better behave well …