Big Investors Want Small Changes In Japan – World News Report

The most comprehensive geo-political news service available on the Internet, covering over 263 countries and regions, all U.S. States and Industries.

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

Japan, investments – ““I think what Mr. Abe needs to do is actually to be a bit more realistic about the difficulty of getting things done in Japan or any country or any big organization,” said Fidelity Worldwide Investment head of equities for Japan, Alexander Treves, who oversees about $23 billion of Japanese investments.”

See on world.einnews.com

Emerging Markets: Luxury’s New Breeding Ground

“Conspicuous consumption by the world’s rising consumer class is fueling rapid growth outside the luxury category’s traditional territories…”

©

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

Japan, China, Asia– ” . . .a cyclical trend showing that when the economy is strong, people consume a lot more luxury goods. You probably saw an effect of this when currency reforms and monetary easing policies spearheaded by Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan, got people excited about the Japanese economy earlier in 2013. It actually triggered a spike in consumption of luxury goods. The yen weakened so much that consumers knew the prices of luxury goods were about to go up a lot, so there was a sudden burst of opportunistic consumption to take advantage of it. For example, the number of Ferraris sold in the first quarter of 2013 was the highest it has been in nearly 16 years. That’s partly related to the exchange rate, and also related to the fact that people expect the economy to be stronger.   –   The “golden age” for luxury goods is when people buy luxury goods for status. That’s where China is right now. That growth eventually has to slow down, but as one region’s economy slows there will be other economies entering this fast-growth phase. Right now it’s Asia— specifically northern Asia—but then it will be Southeast Asia, and then in 10 or 20 years it might be Africa. Declining growth in one region doesn’t signal a death knell for any luxury brand, but the interesting question remains, “How do you sell luxury and keep growing it in a post-industrial society?” Until someone figures out the answer, it means that brands will have to take share from their competitors in other regions, and that’s why you’ll continue to see companies expanding and relocating to other countries and regions. “

See on www.usnews.com

Working Women Are Japan’s Only Hope for Avoiding Economic Catastrophe – (Articles to GIBS campus, July)

Abenomics as feminism

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

curated to GIBS Bog Blog, July

 

“Japan desperately needs more workers to offset its elderly overhang, boost productivity and pay more taxes. The workforce might also be more competitive if, say, more than 1.6% of executives at listed Japanese companies were women, as the FT reports. And though women have fewer jobs and earn much less than men, they tend to control the purse strings more than men, and according to Goldman (pdf), their spending has stayed more constant during the downturn. Here’s a look at the IMF projections of how female labor participation could boost GDP (“Northern Europe” female labor participation is around 80%)”

See on www.theatlantic.com

Nigeria Seeks Japan’s Support for Power, Infrastructure Development – AllAfrica.com

Curated by GIBS IC staffer Magdel Naude / See also on Scoop.itCentre for Business Analysis & Research – CBAR

Nigeria Seeks Japan’s Support for Power, Infrastructure Development  –   AllAfrica.com

“For African countries, including Nigeria, to achieve a sustainable growth, it is imperative that agriculture be developed across the value chain.

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

Nigeria – Japan,  infrastructure development

See on allafrica.com

Sirleaf Urges Japanese Investors to Explore Liberia, Africa’s Vast Potential – AllAfrica.com

Curated by GIBS IC staffer Magdel Naude / See also on Scoop.itCentre for Business Analysis & Research – CBAR

Channel News Asia Sirleaf Urges Japanese Investors to Explore Liberia, Africa’s Vast Potential AllAfrica.com With Japan’s long history of partnership, of doing business in Africa, the Liberian President said, that tradition could now have a…

GIBS Information Centre / GIBSIC‘s insight:

Japan – doing business in Africa

See on news.google.com

Our latest collection – “Understanding contemporary Japan”

We are the proud recipients of a donation from the Read Japan Book Donation Project – a project initiated by the Japanese Embassy in South Africa.

The Read Japan Book Donation project is an initiative from The Nippon Foundation.  Through this program books about contemporary Japan are donated to libraries around the world. The initial donation is called, “100 Books for Understanding Contemporary Japan” – 100 books, selected by a committee of Japanese and foreign scholars, journalists etc., covering five categories, politics & international relations, economy & business, society & culture, literature & arts, and history.

Visitors are welcome to come and browse our small, but growing collection.

GIBS students and staff may borrow books from this collection.

Some of the titles available in the collection:

Life as we knew it . . .

 

Share an insightful take from  these  authors  on Japan’s path,  going forward  –

How to reshape post-crisis Japan 

Authors:

Brian P. Klein, Former International Affairs Fellow in Japan, Sponsored by Hitachi, Ltd.

David S. Abraham, International Affairs Fellow in Japan, Sponsored by Hitachi, Ltd. 2010-2011

April 13, 2011

It may be difficult to imagine a Japan out of crisis. Substantial aftershocks still shake the country; several hundred thousand affected people will take years to get back their livelihoods; and the discovery of further radiation effects from an unstable nuclear plant raise the specter of long-term environmental, health, and safety issues.

Yet recovery is underway. Business expectations are slowly reverting to pre-quake levels and the Nikkei 225 stock index has gained 12 percent after having fallen 18.5 percent on the initial overreaction to events in March. Many economists estimate the quake will impact growth by less than half a percent of GDP, dropping to slightly less than 1 percent for 2011. And although it is of little solace to those 163,000 people living in shelters, it is roughly half as many people who were rendered homeless during the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

It is imperative that any recovery plan do more than just rebuild. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and a major source for high precision technological products. Many countries rely on a secure and robust Japan feeding into the global supply chain.

An effective policy would focus on short-term humanitarian needs as well as foster economic growth and address vulnerabilities, including the future threat of natural disasters, inefficient allocation of capital, and a coddled agriculture sector that has stymied trade liberalization policy. Although much work needs to be done, it is important for the government to address at least four areas to lift the country out of twenty years of economic malaise and provide new development opportunities.

1. Improving Energy Policies 

Japan’s energy focus has been on developing multiple sources of power generation and boosting import security. Less attention has been paid to its distribution network. For example, to move electricity from southern Japan to Tokyo, where limited supplies have led to rationing, power must be converted from 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz. This costly anomaly of separate regional grids is the result of rivalries between power companies and the lack of a unifying national policy. Power cannot be transported from one zone to another unless converted by facilities that are very expensive to build. Present conversion capability at just one gigawatt (representing 12 percent of Fukushima Daiichi output) falls far short of demand. Harmonizing northern and southern electric grids on the same cycle so that energy can be directed to where it is needed will help protect against power failures.

The significant drop in northern electricity supply, however, will not be short lived. Corrosive sea water used to cool the reactors has made them unusable for electricity generation and at least four of Daiichi’s six reactors are permanently out of commission. A shortfall of twelve gigawatts, or roughly 20 percent for northern Japan, which includes the Tokyo metropolitan area of thirty million people, is predicted by the summer. This will limit air conditioning and electricity usage during peak hours while forcing manufacturers to alter their production methods to maximize limited power.

An effective policy would focus on short-term humanitarian needs as well as foster economic growth and address vulnerabilities, including the future threat of natural disasters, inefficient allocation of capital, and a coddled agriculture sector.

Japan’s “cool biz” program, which encourages companies to limit air conditioning by keeping summertime office temperatures at 82 degrees Fahrenheit, has shown a government campaign can help reduce demand at the margin. Although general energy use per capita in Japan is far lower than many advanced industrialized countries, in part due to lower energy-consuming appliances, per capita energy use still increased 25 percent from 1987-2007.

Sustained changes in business culture can help. Workers should be encouraged to leave the office when their work is finished rather than staying late to placate superiors. A campaign to turn off lights and computers by 7 p.m., along with more flexible work and production hours to spread out energy demand, would help reduce power consumption. Over the mid- to long-term, the government should strengthen building codes to increase energy conservation in the residential and commercial sector, which makes up over 25 percent of total Japanese energy consumption.

2. Focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises

Japan’s financial system historically has skewed toward bank lending to big business at the expense of entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized enterprises, the largest source of job creation. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs must rely on personal savings to fund their companies or bring new ideas to market.

Last week, after rightly fighting off calls by some in government for the Bank of Japan to underwrite the debt by buying government reconstruction bonds, the bank announced a modest package of $12 billion in loans to lenders in the region. This comes two weeks after the government announced it would extend loan guarantees for some small and medium-sized businesses. These moves will provide some support, but authorities will need to ensure that as regional lenders’ loan portfolios deteriorate, funds actually get to businesses in need until they regain footing. However, over the long term, the government should also work with the financial sector to use any loan program as the basis for a more sustained effort to target funds to small and medium-sized businesses.

But loans are not the only way businesses access funds. The government should use the crisis to encourage both foreign and domestic private capital to smaller and medium-sized firms more broadly to reduce the sector’s reliance on loans.

3. Deemphasizing Tokyo as Economic Hub  

Although the Tohoku magnitude 9.0 quake was the fourth biggest ever recorded, this was not “the big one” Japan had been expecting. Seismologists have long predicted that the capital will be hit by the Tokai, a recurring quake southwest of the capital. By some estimates, pressure to geological plates that might lead to this devastating quake has increased as a result of the recent catastrophe. This looming threat should give policymakers the impetus to reverse the growing trend of dependence on Tokyo as the country’s economic center.

Managing the current disaster response in a region with roughly 6-7 percent of the country’s population and GDP has been a significant challenge. A quake closer to the city of Tokyo, which contributes roughly 16 percent to the country’s GDP and is where government and business decisions are made, would be devastating to Japan, and slow the global economy.

Government relocation has been considered for decades. Tokyo needs to spur decentralization efforts, providing local governments with greater fiscal autonomy. Such a move could lead to a more responsive government, especially in a time of crisis, and provide jobs in local areas.

The private sector should be encouraged to follow its lead. Government policies have allowed cities at severe risk to earthquakes grow both in size and population. For example, Odaiba, literally built on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay for commercial use, is exceptionally susceptible to effects from earthquakes. The development of business centers outside of major cities can be encouraged based on Japan’s already extensive, although underutilized, high-speed railway system.

4. Agricultural Sector Reform

Finally, it is time for Japan to reform its agricultural sector and join the free trade bandwagon. Japanese farmers, shielded from lower-cost imports by high tariffs, produce some of the world’s highest quality, albeit expensive, produce. Japan has been slow to address this inefficient sector due to a small, but politically powerful agricultural community, and a population timid about food quality and safety concerns of imported foods. Now domestic food safety concerns are limiting some supplies, and raising prices, while radiation fears reduce demand and cost for others, like fish. These market disruptions should force a change in Japan’s agriculture policy, which would bring about several benefits.

First, an agriculture plan that lowers import barriers would increase the supply and reduce the price of foods, putting pressure on farmers to be more efficient. This would lead some of the farmers, whose average age is in the mid-sixties, to retire, but would also lead to a sector focusing on higher-grade exports such as Wagyu beef.

Second, cutting tariffs–long a stumbling block for Japan to enter economic partnerships–would allow the country to enter more trade deals, spurring economic growth by increasing the size of the export markets and facilitating cross-border investment.

Finally, a new plan could be part of a multi-pronged strategy to show its citizens and neighbors its food is safe especially in markets such as India, China, and South Korea, where some Japanese food exports are being banned. New clear policies on food safety and monitoring could also ward off other countries unnecessarily continuing this trend.

No doubt Japan has one of the largest tasks of any government over the past fifty years: to restore the devastated country after a tragedy costing tens of thousands of lives and roughly $300 billion in damage. This crisis may tempt officials to focus on restoring business as usual quickly, but reshaping the economy rather than simply rebuilding will leave Japan far better off.

Brian P. Klein, an international economist and consultant, was a 2008-2009 CFR International Affairs Fellow based in Tokyo and a former U.S. diplomat.

David S. Abraham is a current CFR International Affairs Fellow based in Tokyo

Let’s be Google-prepared!

Hello Google !  Again with the learning to lead option . . . 

Google Crisis Response: a small team tackling big problems

Posted: 04 Apr 2011 01:38 PM PDT
 

This is the latest post in our series profiling entrepreneurial Googlers working on products across the company and around the world. Speed in execution is important for any Google product team, but as we learned after the recent earthquakes in both Japan and New Zealand, it’s even more critical in crisis response. This post is an inside look at the efforts of our year-old Crisis Response team, and what they’re doing to make preparedness tools available to anyone at the click of a button. – Ed.

The Google Crisis Response Team came together in 2010 after a few engineers and I realized that we needed a scalable way to make disaster-related information immediately available and useful in a crisis. Until a little over a year ago, we responded to crises with scattered 20 percent time projects, but after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 we saw the opportunity to create a full-time team that would make critical information more accessible during disaster situations.

For us to help during a crisis, it’s vital to get things done really quickly, and we’ve been able to do that as a small team within Google. Working from a standard already developed by one of the Google engineers, Person Finder was built and launched in 72 hours after the Haitian earthquake, and it launched within three hours after the New Zealand earthquake in February. Unfortunately, there have been an unusually high number of disasters over the last year, forcing us to learn and get even faster.

Within minutes of hearing about the 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan in March, Googlers around the world—from engineers to webmasters to product managers—immediately started organizing a Google Crisis Response resource page with disaster-related information such as maps and satellite imagery, Person Finder and news updates and citizen videos on YouTube. In Japan, Person Finder went live within an hour of the earthquake. More than 600,000 contact entries have been made since then—more than all other disasters combined—and there have been several reports of people finding their loved ones safe. I was inspired by my colleagues’ ability to launch tools about an hour after the earthquake struck; the Tokyo office, in particular, has really been helping to drive the rapid response and provided real-time information to teams across the globe, even while aftershocks were rocking the city and buildings were still swaying. 

But we’re eager to find other ways of helping. In addition to these efforts focused on specific situations, we’ve worked hard this past year to more broadly organize the information most helpful during crisis situations and make it possible for people to use that data in near real-time. If people are asking for information, then in our view, it’s already too late. In these situations, it’s incredibly important that things happen fast.

So in addition to building products, we collaborate with many incredible organizations to make technology useful for responding to a crisis. For example, Random Hacks of Kindness is a collaboration between technology companies and government organizations which encourages teams around the world to create software solutions to problems that arise during a crisis. Recent “RHoKstars” have created all sorts of useful tools—from HeightCatcher, which helps identify malnourishment of children in relief camps by accurately assessing height and weight through a mobile device, to new features for Person Finder, such as email notifications, automatic translation and phonetic name matching—which have all been extremely useful in Japan. These projects present a real opportunity to improve lives by employing crowd-sourcing technology and real-time data during a crisis.

The sheer number of major natural disasters in 2010 and early 2011 demonstrates just how important it is for those involved in relief efforts to have real-time access to information no matter where they are. The Google Crisis Response team has worked over the past year to develop open source initiatives that encourage collaboration with larger crisis response efforts, including relief organizations, NGOs and individual volunteers. And although we’re a small team and still relatively new to the crisis response ecosystem, we hope the resources and support we receive from Google and our community partners around the world will make a difference in preparedness efforts.