The Three Arrows, The Miniskirt And The Bras of Abenomics

Since the end of 2012, the prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and his finance minister Taro Aso have started a new aggressive economic policy with the main objectives of ending the vicious circle of deflation in which Japan has been mired during the last 20 years, and achieving an inflation of 2%.

The models of the lingery company Triumph during the launch of their bra to help the Japanese people achieve a target inflation of 2%. They call it “Branomics” = “Bra” + “Economics”

This economic policy is popularly known as Abenomics = “Abe + Economics” and is composed of three arrows “3本の矢”. There is a Japanese proverb that says “three arrows can’t be broken” 三本の矢なら折れない.

The three arrows of Abenomics:

  • 1.- Quantitative Easing (量的金融緩和): the BOJ (Bank of Japan) leaves the interest rates near 0% and makes the money flow to commercial banks to create excess liquidity with the objective of promoting lending. With this objective, the BOJ is buying government bonds and Asset Backed Securities. The objective over the next years is to double the amount of money in circulation and as a consequence reach a 2% inflation target. Another consequence is that the yen has been depreciating fast against other currencies since the Abenomics measures started to be implemented.
  • 2.- Fiscal policies to stimulate demand: investment in public works and renovation of infrastructure which is older than 50 years (built shortly after the Second World War) and fiscal deductions to companies that invest in R&D, that hire more employees, that pay higher salaries, that buy new equipment, etc. These measures aim to achieve an increase of investments, create jobs and increase salaries.
  • 3.- Deregulations and creation of sustainable growth: of the three Abenomics arrows, this one is the arrow that is least concrete. As of now, there is a group of experts (mainly CEOs of large, medium and small companies) that will propose measures to the government over the next few years. This arrow includes plans to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new free-trade agreement between countries in the Asia-Pacific region that would help Japanese companies export more.

The Triumph ladies wearing “Branomics”, holding two bows and with three abenomics arrows stuck to their stomachs.

The three Abenomics arrows follow ideas started by Keynes and whose most famous exponent nowadays is Paul Krugman. Some people say that it will work, but others say that it will end in a catastrophe because the future Japanese population will not be able to withstand an even higher debt although they can finance themselves emitting bonds in their own currency. As of now the negative consequences of Abenomics are an increase of the debt, a VAT increase from 5% to 10% (in 2015) and the depreciation of the yen (positive for exports). Another possible negative consequence is that inequalities in wealth distribution may increase.

For the moment it seems like prices in supermarkets are stable (we still haven’t noticed signs of inflation) but the Nikkei 225 index has started to notice the effects of Abenomics after several years of stagnation and it has risen more than 40% in 2013:

Nikkei index

The good news for all those of you who plan to visit Japan this Summer is that according to a popular theory when the economy is going well the skirts length decreases (Skirt length theory). On the other hand when things go sour the economic situation affects women’s moods which decide to wear longer skirts. This theory is better explained in this CNN video:

“When the Nikkei is below 9,000 we wear long skirts, when it’s between 10,000 and 11,000 we wear knee-length skirts and when it is above 11,000 we wear miniskirts”

Japanese Bra

Video of the branomics presentation.


Sources: Mof Taro Aso Speech, more about skirts and the economy.


More Than Half of the Companies Older than 200 Years are Japanese

The Bank of Korea made a study to better understand which are the oldest companies in the world and what are the common characteristics that have made them survive for so long. According to the study there are 5,586 companies older than 200 years, of which 3,146 are Japanese companies. Germany ranks second with 837 among the oldest in the world and the Netherlands and France tie for the third place with 196. In Spain there are only four companies older than 200 years, all of them distilleries: Raventóns, Can Bonastre, Codorníu and Chivite.

Oldest companies in the world are in Japan

It seems like one of the keys to the survival of a company for many years is its headcount; it turns out that almost 90% of the companies older than 100 years have less than 300 employees (maybe this fact is related to the Dunbar’s number). Another of the common characteristics of these companies is that they all seem to be controlled by families whose priority doesn’t seem to be to make as much money as possible but they are concerned about passing the company to the next generation and that the company provides benefits to its community, employees and clients. The Japanese people are specially careful about all these aspects in their companies; while some people criticize some of these aspects, saying that they are one of the causes of the slowdown of the Japanese economy during the last two decades: “companies should die and be born in order for the country to progress”. Some others say that it’s one of the keys to the success of Japan: “the stability and strength of our companies makes our economy robust and resistant in the long term”.

Nowadays, the oldest companies in Japan are related to construction, hospitality, metallurgy and services. I wonder how will this list be in 200 or 300 years; what kind of companies there will be on the list? Will Microsoft, Apple, Google, Wallmart and BP continue to be alive?



Japanese Strikes – The Spanish Urban Legend

In my home country, Spain, almost everybody believes that when Japanese workers go on strike instead of not showing up for work, what they do to protest is to work even harder than on normal days. They are known as “huelgas a la japonesa” which mean Japanese-style strikes.

I think this urban legend only exists in Spain and some countries in Latinamerica! I wonder how did it originate.

In Japan there are no “huelgas a la japonesa”, but “normal” strikes do exist. They are less common than in other countries and when there are protests or manifestations they are usually very civilized.

Workers of the railway company Japan Railways JR during their strike protesting with signs at the the south exit of Shinjuku station:

Japanese strike