Japan burdened by huge debt, needs tax hike and belt-tightening

10:49, June 05, 2010      

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The Greek fiscal crisis has sent shockwaves through markets around the world.

Now other European Union countries seem under threat, and the EU and the International Monetary Fund are grappling to stem the crisis before another nation trembles. But the problem of excessive government debt is not confined to the EU.

Indeed, Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio is around 170 percent - much higher than in Greece, where the figure stands at around 110 percent.

But, despite the grim parallel, Japan's government does not seem to think that it needs to take the problem seriously. Yukio Hatoyama's government (Hatoyama quit on Wednesday as prime minister) ignored macroeconomic management by abolishing the policy board charged with discussing economic and fiscal policy.

Instead, the government focused on increasing spending to meet its grand electoral promises, including a huge amount for new grants to households and farmers. As a result, the ratio of tax revenue to total spending this fiscal year has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in Japan's postwar history.

Despite the weakness of Japan's fiscal position, the market for Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) remains stable, at least for now.

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