Is Abenomics Working?

Preliminary GDP data show a 6.8% contraction year-on-year in the second quarter of this year – the largest since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country. It is time for Japan's leaders to shift their focus toward a new growth strategy, centered on labor-market reform, deregulation, and corporate-tax changes.

TOKYO – Last April, Japan’s government implemented a long-planned consumption-tax hike, from 5% to 8%, the first in a two-step increase that is expected to bring the rate to 10% by 2015. The hike – a key feature of “Abenomics,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three-pronged strategy to revive Japan’s economy – signals the government’s long-term commitment to fiscal consolidation. But it has also dealt Japan a heavy macroeconomic blow.

Preliminary GDP data show a 6.8% contraction year-on-year in the second quarter of this year – the largest since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country. Moreover, consumer spending fell by a record amount, contributing to a total real (inflation-adjusted) decline of 5.9% from last July.

But it is not all bad news. Expansionary monetary policy – the second of three so-called “arrows” of Abenomics, after fiscal stimulus – has brought down the unemployment rate to just 3.8%. The ratio of job openings to applicants has exceeded parity, and the GDP deflator narrowed to close to zero.

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