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The economic policy of President Trump will have both positive and negative influence on Japanese economy. As the BOJ has just upgraded its forecast for this year, Japanese economy will certainly merit, at least for a short term, from the possible economic boom in the United States as a result of Trump’s economic policy such as radical tax cut, increase in fiscal spending, and drastic deregulation. The Abe administration already seems to try to gain Trump’s gratitude and find business opportunities for Japanese companies by encouraging and helping Japanese business to invest more in the States. For a long term, however, a robust U.S. economy may have destructive impact on Japan.
In the economic (and social) field, so called the Casino Law, or the Promotion Act of Integrated Resort, passed the Diet on December 15. What a stupid decision! Economic success of Japan since the Meiji Restoration owed a lot to an increase in population and productivity, an expansion of the market to overseas, and overall diligence of the Japanese people. At a time when these elements are being lost, the majority of Japanese politicians are choosing the way to facilitate the deterioration of the morale, and thus the loss of diligence by making the Casino Law.
First of all, casino is immoral. Even today, pachinko business are legally absorbing money from ordinary people and creating persons of gambling addicted. Far from strengthening regulation on it, this country seems to be facilitating the production of lazy people. To my disappointment, the Diet debate was lukewarm at best. While the proponents, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have been bribed by way of political contribution, the opponents have failed to carry strong arguments. They should have made a simple argument: casino or gambling is bad for the society and should be banned. Instead, the skeptics have criticized that the number of gambling addicts would increase. The proponents have easily responded that the casino addicts would receive more hospitable care by using tax revenue from new casino business. Some have even argued that we should lift a ban on casino in order to treat gambling addicts carefully. Maybe they think we should legalize and nationalize the narcotic business in order to enhance the drug addicts?
The Casino Law is economically meaningless, too. The sales of casino industry amount to be approximately three trillion JPY or twenty five billion dollars in Macao, one of the most successful areas in casino business. Let us suppose casino business make a success in Japan. The sales would be one trillion JPY or eight billion dollars, and the profit would be a hundred billion JPY or eight hundred thirty million dollars. That means we will create an enterprise ranking at the 150th place in sales. Well, you may argue that it is better than nothing. If I were the government, I would rather reform the regulatory system and/or creating new areas of business by investing in education and child care, which will more effectively help Japanese economy and employment. I am also concerned with the economic side effect of the spread of casino business, or the facilitation of the deterioration of business morale. Recall the recent and successive scandals related to Japanese prestigious companies such as Toshiba Corporation (fraudulent accounting) and Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (fuel mileage falsification). The collapse of morale and corporate governance lies at the core of business crisis of these companies. Lifting the ban on casino is likely to deteriorate the overall morale in Japanese society and facilitate the weakening of morale in Japanese companies in the long run.
Aside from fundamental judgment on the Casino Law, it will be politically interesting if Abe and the LDP have decided to do what they want even by skipping careful procedures and enough debates in the Diet. The LDP passed the Casino Bill in the House of Representatives after only six hours debate. The Komeito was forced to allow its members whether to support or oppose the bill, and Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the party voted against it.
In the election, the LDP cannot win without the cooperation from the Soka-Gakkai, religious body which supports the Komeito. For their part, however, the Komeito and the Soka-Gakkai cannot cease to support the LDP because they want to stay in power as a part of the government and the ruling coalition. Abe understands it very well. Furthermore, the opposition parties are all unpopular and the media and internet space are well controlled by House of Prime Minister and the LDP. There is a good chance of Abe’s trying to manage the Diet more autocratically, especially after the general election. The next question is what Abe wants to do. It should not be necessarily the passage of specific laws. My guess is any challenges that help the dissolution of the post-war regime of Japan, even if he will continue to stress “Economy First.”