GDP can take its time climbing
IT was 1993 when the term "GDP" began to appear frequently in newspapers. Starting in that year's JulySeptember quarter, the Economic Planning Agency ( currently the Cabinet Office) revised its preliminary quarterly estimates of national earnings, which had mainly been posted in terms of gross national product, to reflect gross domestic product. The agency deemed it more appropriate to use GDP to measure domestic economic activities, since GNP includes profits that Japanese companies earn overseas.
Both in the English abbreviation and the Japanese word, the two terms differ by only one letter. Both are yardsticks for comparing countries' economic scales. Nevertheless, it seems that GNP somehow has more of an impact. It must be because GNP was used to record the achievements of Japan's rapid growth economy. In 1968 the country took a major step toward becoming the second economic giant of the liberal world when its GNP surpassed that of then West Germany.
The phrase "Kutabare GNP" (Go to hell GNP), the title of a national newspaper series, became popular as the time. It was meant to admonish the overheated econo- my, but it came instead to define the price of fame. About 20 years have passed since "D" took over the starring role from "N." During that period, a growth rate that hovers around zero percent has become the norm. In 2010, China overtook Japan in terms of GDP, and ever since that figure, announced every quarter, has become merely an index that reflects the public's apprehension about the economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to cast the index, which many view as a non-entity compared to its predecessor, in a positive light. Abe announced last year the aim of increasing nominal GDP to ¥600 trillion - an ambitious target considering the figure was less than ¥500 trillion in fiscal 2014.
Abe believes that
people's incomes will increase through the expansion of corporate profits, and that encouraging capital investment will lead to the expansion of domestic demand.
The virtuous economic circle that Abe referred to in his policy speech at the beginning of the year represents a political challenge that the government must make a top priority and tackle by any means possible.
However, only six days after Abe's policy speech, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of economic revitalization who was expected to play a key role in Abe's economic policy package, left the Cabinet over allegations that he received illegal political donations. His successor is known as an expert on the tax system, but his ability to manage the economy is unknown. The GDP seems out of luck.
The opposition parties' entire strategy in Diet deliberations seems to be debating the attributes and abilities of new and former ministers. This issue is important in its own right, but should be based on an underlying strategy that prioritizes a path that will allow the people to feel the strength of the economy in their own lives.
"GDP Skytree ni Hagemasare" (The GDP has been encouraged by Tokyo Skytree) - is a senryu poem featured in the current topics senryu section of The Yomiuri Shimbun's Tokyo edition.
It is not necessary to aim for Skytree's top height of 634 meters all at once. It's OK to grow centimeter by centimeter. Such a goal has nothing to do with policy differences between the ruling and opposition parties.