Will Japan’s snap election cost it dear?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has postponed a consumption tax rise originally planned for October 2015, instead opting to call a snap election, but can Japan’s highly indebted government actually afford such a delay? The fiscal hawks worry about the implications for Japan’s public debt, which will amount to almost 230% of GDP by the end of this year, according to the OECD’s May projections. Such worries, however, seem premature. While the debt numbers may seem intimidating, Japan still finances these liabilities with surprising ease. This is partly because the government also owns substantial financial assets. So Japan’s net public debt will be a more manageable 143% of GDP by the end of this year, reckons the OECD. The debt burden is also surprisingly light because interest rates are remarkably low. Japan’s net interest payments will amount to only about 1% of GDP this year, the OECD calculates, which is lower than all but one of the other G7 countries.

 

Simon Cox, BNY Mellon Investment Management Asia Pacific

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