Lex专栏:日本“自甘堕落”

英国《金融时报》 Lex专栏

Many Japanese spent Sunday floating lanterns down rivers, honouring the souls of the departed. A similarly timeworn tradition was played out in Tokyo yesterday as the cabinet office revealed gross domestic product numbers that failed to meet expectations. The eclipse of Japan as the world’s second-largest economy is a sideshow. The more telling statistic is that its nominal output has retreated to levels last seen way back in 1993. Unlike other rich economies wrestling with deflationary forces and minimal growth, though, Japan has largely come to terms with its decline. The big banks make no secret of their desire to build assets overseas rather than at home, where deposit growth consistently outpaces demand for credit. No chief executive is being fired for preferring the payment of huge takeover premiums for growth outside Japan over domestic investment. When it comes to disappointing domestic growth, investors have seen it all before. Equities barely budged on the news, while 10-year government bond yields sank further below 1 per cent. There will be calls for remedial action from the Bank of Japan, although it has no low-risk way to ease monetary policy much further. Yet few will be pushing for truly radical economic reforms. After all, the country is the world’s third most peaceful, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace; its Misery Index ranking – inflation plus unemployment – is less than half the big-economy average. Radical moves such as relaxing immigration controls remain off the agenda: last year Japan’s population of foreigners fell for the first time in 48 years. Yesterday’s numbers – and the markets’ shrugs of indifference – showed that the country is quite happily trading growth for harmony.

过去,许多日本人会在周日将灯笼放在河上顺流而下,以缅怀逝去的亡灵。昨日,一个差不多同样古老的传统在东京上演:日本内阁府(cabinet office)再一次公布了低于预期的国内生产总值(GDP)数据。日本已不再是全球第二大经济体,这只是一个次要问题。更能说明问题的一个数字是,日本名义产出已经一路退回到了1993年的水平。

不过,与正与通缩和增长迟缓较劲的其它富裕经济体不同,日本基本上已经接受了自己的衰落。该国各大银行毫不掩饰自己在海外、而非国内构建资产的欲望。在日本国内,存款一直以高于信贷需求的速度增长。没有哪位首席执行官因为在投资上“崇洋媚外”而被解雇,他们都更倾向于为日本以外地区的增长而支付高额收购溢价,而不愿在国内投资。谈到令人失望的国内增长,投资者早已见怪不怪。上述消息几乎没有令股市产生任何波动,而10年期日本国债收益率则进一步跌破1%。

人们会呼吁日本央行(BoJ)采取补救行动,不过,央行已没有低风险的方式,来进一步放松银根。但不会有什么人要求推行真正激进的经济改革。毕竟,按照经济与和平学会(Institute for Economics and Peace)的说法,日本是全球第三爱好和平的国家;日本的痛苦指数(Misery Index)——通胀率加失业率——不及大型经济体平均水平的一半。放松移民控制等激进措施仍不在议程之上:去年,日本的外国人口出现了48年以来的首次下降。昨日公布的数据——以及市场所表现出的漠不关心——表明,日本正相当开心地用增长来换取和谐。

Advertisements