Japan. the world’s third-largest economy is highly dependent on exports and the reality it is still struggling even after a great deal of America’s stimulus money leaked into buying imported goods speaks volumes. While it feels a bit like ancient history, Japan’s GDP contracted at an annualized rate of 28.8 percent in Q2 of 2020, the biggest decline on record. Even after bouncing back 21.4 percent quarter-on-quarter in Q3 and 12.7 percent in Q4 Japanese national accounts are still lagging behind mid-2019 levels. For all of 2020, spending by households with at least two people fell 5.3% due to the hit from the pandemic. It was down 6.5% for all households, the worst drop since comparable data became available in 2001.
All in all, this means the country is still playing catch up, partly because Japan also experienced two additional quarters of negative growth in Q1 of 2020 and Q4 of 2019. Adding to the problem is Japan’s household spending fell for the first time in three months in December, in a sign consumer sentiment was weakening even before the government called a state of emergency to control a new wave of the coronavirus. Lower demand for services such as travel tours also weighed, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of domestic tourism promotions. Last year, spending on accommodations fell 43.7%, while overseas and domestic tour travel expenditure slumped 85.8% and 61.9%, respectively.Not only is Japan again struggling to stay out of recession, but it also faces a wall of debt that can only be addressed by printing more money and debasing its currency. This means they will be paying off their debt with worthless yen where possible and in many cases defaulting on the promises they have made. Japan currently has a debt/GDP ratio of about 240% which is the highest in the industrialized world. With the government financing almost 40 percent of its annual budget through debt it becomes easy to draw comparisons between Greece and Japan.
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