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Japanese Public Debt

Japan, the third wealthiest nation on earth, has one of the highest rates of public debt in the world. Alongside poorly developed countries, or at least countries with a struggling economy, such as Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, Japan is one of very few countries whose national debt is more than 100% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fact, Japan has a national debt which is around 200% of GDP, a rate that is unheard of in the rest of the developed world. This is due to various reasons, as this essay will outline, before suggesting some of the ways that Japan is attempting to deal with the problem.

The Japanese economy, like all economies, particularly developed and globalised economies, was massively negatively impacted by the global recession of 2008-2009. Many nations were sent into recession in that period, and many are now beginning to recover in financial terms. However, the Japanese economy was prevented from recovering by a number of catastrophic natural disasters, notably the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. These related disasters threw Japan into economic turmoil, and they are still attempting to recover. Another related catastrophe is the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear plant, which also means that Japan now has to import energy from other nations. All of these factors have exacerbated the already reduced economy of Japan.

A government’s first recourse in times of economic turmoil is usually taxation, and this is one route that Japan initially tried. They have what is known as a consumption tax, and in 2012 this tax was set to annually increase so that by 2015 it would be at 10%. This measure did not seem popular, though, and lasted only a few months. A more productive measure, instituted by another government, is for the government to invest in bonds, thereby stabilising their value, investing money into the economy and reducing uncertainty in the market. This seems to be a more likely method of weathering the storm

There are, then, many complex reasons for Japan’s current level of national debt. Alongside the already disastrous financial crisis of 2008-2009, Japan suffered nationwide natural disasters. However, the government does now seem to be taking measures to get the debt down, and the long term results are yet to be seen. It must be remembered, though, that Japan is still one of the wealthiest countries on the planet.