As the spotlight has been on Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito, the economy is coping with half a decade of Abenomics, monetary injections, huge debt – and a proposed sales tax that could make things a lot worse by the fall.
Ever since Shinzo Abe started his second stint as Prime Minister, Japan has focused on positive economic signals, which has sparked futile hopes, including a bad sales tax proposition.
Japanese officials vow to stick to the planned tax hike in October (it has been delayed twice), barring a big economic shock. With the 2019 budget, Abe hopes to offset adverse impact of the sales tax by returning much of the extra revenue to consumers via $18 billion of offsetting measures, instead of faster debt-reduction.
But recently, the Cabinet downgraded its headline economic assessment for the first time in three years. Manufacturing, housing and retail indicators reflect signs of weakness, while first-quarter figures, expected in May, could show a contraction – especially as the impact of Trump’s tariff wars is spreading in Asia.
Dr Steinbock is the founder of the Difference Group and has served at India, China, and America Institute (USA), Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more information, see http://www.differencegroup.net/
The original version was released by South China Morning Post on May 1, 2019.