Retrenchment or Stagnation: Lessons from Japan s Lost Decades. Andrew Smithers. UK-Japan 21 st Century Group Conference 3 rd May, 2013

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1 Retrenchment or Stagnation: Lessons from Japan s Lost Decades. Andrew Smithers UK-Japan 21 st Century Group Conference 3 rd May, 2013

2 Slide 1. The Conventional Wisdom. Japan has suffered from two lost decades. This is due to a failure to boost the economy sufficiently with fiscal and monetary stimuli. Deflation has depressed demand and thereby the economy.

3 Slide 2. Reality. Growth has been slow due to demography. Deflation has been more of a help than a hindrance. Japan s productivity has improved more than France or Germany. As in all developed economies, poor policies have held back growth.

4 Slide 3. G5: Productivity Data Sources: National Accounts via Ecowin. US UK Japan Germany France % p.a. change in GDP at constant prices per person employed.

5 Slide 4. Policy Failure. Neither fiscal policy nor monetary stimuli have been insufficient. The problem has been the wrong policies. Ignoring Japan s key problem is the cause of bad policies.

6 Slide 5. Japan s Key Problem. Japan has a structural corporate cash flow surplus. This comes from excessive past investment and Current excessive depreciation allowances.

7 Sector lending (+) or borrowing (-) as % of GDP Slide 6. Fiscal Deficits = Other Sectors' Surplus. Government Households Companies Export of Capital Data Sources: Cabinet Office Website National Accounts 2003 and 2011.

8 Slide 7. It s Not A Cyclical Problem. Advocates of fiscal and monetary stimuli assume that companies cash surplus is a cyclical problem. Hence the nonsense about deflation. Inflation advocates assume that negative real interest rates would boost investment. If they did, it would make things worse!

9 Slide 8. Japan Overinvests. Japan invests more than other G5 countries both business (Slide 9) and total. Through demography, not poor productivity, it grows slowly (Slide 10). It wastes investment (Slide 11).

10 Slide 9. G5: Business Investment as % of GDP. Data Sources: National Accounts via Ecowin. US UK Japan Germany France Business investment as % of GDP.

11 Slide 10. G5: Total Investment as % of GDP. Data Sources: National Acounts via Ecowin. US UK Japan Germany France Fixed capital investment as % of GDP.

12 Slide 11. G5: Growth Rates Data Sources: National Accounts via Ecowin. US UK Japan Germany France % p.a. change in GDP at constant prices

13 Slide 12. G5: ICORs (Incremental Capital/Output Ratios). Data Sources: National Accounts via Ecowin. US Business Total UK Japan Germany France Investment as defined as % of GDP divided by % p.a. change in GDP over period.

14 Slide 13. The Case for Inflation. Deflation keeps real interest rates positive. This depresses investment.

15 Slide 14. The Case Against Inflation. It might boost investment, which is too high. High past investment increases depreciation (Slide 15). This causes the structural savings surplus.

16 Depreciation and investment over previous 12 months Slide 15. Japan: Non-financial Companies' Investment in Equipment. Depreciation Investment in Plant and Equipment Data Source: MoF Quarterly Survey of Incorporated Enterprises

17 Slide 16. Why Corporate Cash Flow is Too High. Depreciation allowances are too high. Depreciation is a function of growth or real wages and this has fallen from 4% p.a. in the 1980s to c. 1% today (Slide 17). Companies don t distribute, as dividends, more than 100% of their profits.

18 % p.a. change over previous 3 years in GDP at constant prices per person employed and employee compensation adjusted for change in CPI Slide 17. Japan: % p.a. Change over 3 Years in Productivity and Real Wages. Productivity Data Sources: MIC and Cabinet Office. Real Wages

19 Slide 18. Other Changes Needed. Companies cannot take full burden. Current account surplus must also rise. The fall in the yen is essential and must be maintained. Household savings are already low (Slide 19).

20 Slide 19. Japan: Household Savings Household savings as % of disposable income Net Gross Data Sources: Cabinet Office National Accounts 2011 and

21 Slide 20. Lost Decades Conclusion. Largely a myth. Deflation has been more help than hindrance. Weak Yen essential must be kept down. Corporation tax reform essential.

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