Date: 10 May 2012
The event will be held in Tokyo , Japan , with the participation of distinguished participants from academia, government, civil society, international organizations, and the press. The list of well known participants making opening remarks, presentations and commenting on the publication includes:
Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP)
Economic Affairs Officer
Macroeconomic Policy and Development Division
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Country briefing note <download pdf file>
Recovering from the impact of disasters
2011 proved to be one of the most challenging years for Japan 's economy in recent history. Following the massive earthquake in March 2011 and the ensuing tsunami and nuclear crisis, the economy experienced two quarters of contraction due to disruptions in production, reduction in consumer spending and a sharp fall in in-bound tourists. While by the third quarter economic growth moved into positive territory assisted by reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts and recovery in exports, maintaining the growth momentum became difficult due to the deteriorating global economic environment.
Weak demand for Japanese exports exacerbated by the strong Japanese currency, and supply disruptions, especially in the automobile industry, caused by flooding in Thailand all contributed to weakening growth towards the end of the year. For the year as a whole, the economy contracted by 0.7% in 2011 compared to the GDP growth rate of 3.9% recorded in 2010.
In 2012, the economy is expected to begin expanding again, with the GDP projected to grow 2.1%, aided by reconstruction demand and a recovery in the export manufacturing sector. Recent indicators pointing towards the easing of the yen's strength against major currencies will provide additional support to the export sector.
Inflation is likely to turn positive in 2012
In 2011 Japan continued to experience deflation with consumer prices falling by 0.3%. However, the year-on-year rate of decline slowed and inflation of 0.2% was recorded in September 2011. As the pace of economic recovery increases, inflation is likely to turn positive in 2012.
The Bank of Japan maintained its commitment to inject more liquidity into the market by keeping interest rates between 0-0.1% and expanding the size of the Asset Purchase Programme. The Bank of Japan will continue to pursue monetary easing until price stability is achieved and economic growth strengthens.
Despite the challenging economic situation, the yen remained very strong in 2011. Growing uncertainty in Europe added to the yen's strength as a safe haven currency.
Fiscal situation worsens amid growing concerns over sustainability
The economic loss and damages brought on by the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster further strained the already critical fiscal position of the government. As a result, the budget deficit increased from 8.1% in 2010 to 8.9% of GDP in 2011.
Although, the scale of the destruction and ongoing public works projects required to rehabilitate the affected areas will make it extremely challenging to restrain expenditure in the near future, the government will need to boost tax revenue to lower government debt to a more sustainable level in the medium term.
Current account surplus shrank in 2011
The normally large current account surplus of Japan shrank to 2.1% of GDP in 2011 from 3.6% in 2010, as a result of falling exports and rising import demand to aid reconstruction efforts and to make up for the shortfall in production. The export sector met with strong headwinds throughout 2011 due to the strong yen and deteriorating external economic environment.
Emerging socioeconomic challenges
While industries in Japan are recovering, the natural disaster acted as a catalyst in hastening the move of many production facilities overseas. On the positive side, the expansion of Japanese firms' overseas production is a strategic decision to better meet growing overseas demand and reduce production costs as well as to hedge against large-scale disasters in the future. However, there is risk that growing overseas production will lead to a contraction of domestic production activity and job loss. Given that this trend is likely to continue, growth of innovative and high-value added product manufacturing will become increasingly important for the economy.
Job-rich growth is also essential to address the trend of growing inequality in Japan . While measures to redistribute income have been successful to a degree, pre-tax income inequality has been increasing over the years. One of the factors that contributes to income inequality is population ageing, as older people tend to have the widest income gap. However, a more critical issue is the phenomenon of jobless growth. For example, while average GDP growth rate between 2001 and 2008 was 1.4%, average employment growth was -0.1 for the same period. Creating more decent jobs is therefore an urgent priority for Japan to enhance domestic consumption and continued growth.
Policy brief: Living with high commodity prices <download pdf file>