Rebecca is blogging from about the Japan sessions at the World Economic Forum meeting going on right now in Seoul. The theme seems to be about recovery. This year at Davos, I was in the audience and Rebecca was moderating a similar panel. Unfortunately, I'm not there this time to heckle. ;-)

Rebecca blogs:

World Economic Forum Blog
... However he [Takenaka] also said that further agressive reforms are necessary if Japan is to pull itself fully and completely out of its decade-long economic slump. He said that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is fully committed to such aggressive reform.

[...]

Takenaka concludes: "There is no excuse to postpone the reform, or to stop the reform at this moment." He says the greatest fundamental danger to economic expansion is a "kind of complacency." People who say that further reforms are unnecessary because the economy has improved are "totally wrong." Japan, he says, now has an opportunity to create a "virtuous cycle" of reform and growth.

[...]

At the Annual Meeting in Davos this past January, I moderated a panel titled Making Japan's Recovery Last . Panelists were generally optimistic that the recovery could be sustained, as long as the government continued with structural reforms. However some members of the audience including venture capitalist and WEF GLT Joi Ito expressed concern that the economic upturn would be used as an excuse not to forge ahead with tough reforms. It appears that Takenaka is determined not to let that happen. He says he has the Prime Minister's support. But what about the rest of the Japanese bureaucracy?

I hope Takenaka is right. I'm still quite concerned that economic recovery will cause people to be complacent about reform, but as Rebecca points out, the drivers for the current recovery might be different from the past. I suppose that if Takenaka and Koizumi continue to focus on this aggressive reform at home, we might have a chance.

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Aggressive reform? Yeah, it seems to be the Japanese political catchphrase of the decade. As an expatriate Japanese, I have watched and learned about Japan both through the eyes of the West and the Japanese. And frankly, Koizumi is simply a comparatively better looking moron, devoid of character and opinion, like most of the Prime Ministers that have co-existed in my time.

I think the problem lies with the resume of these politicians. Like how Bush attended Yale and maintained his nuclear community from his sophomore years, "successful" Japanese politicians all tend to be "old boys" of To-Dai. I feel that they are basically boy-scouts, a hive-mind, and most have no background in political science. All they seem to know is which fat cat they agree with, and which they are prepared to poke at. They probably romanticize the idea of "servitude", as if it's Sengoku-era every election campaign... It is no surprise to me that most of Koizumi's reforms have either not yet occurred, or are watered down and made redundant.

My pessimistic self can’t help but paste in references to Alex Kerr, whom I consider a must-read author...

Dogs and Demons

犬と鬼

An interview in Japanese of Kerr.

Cultural goodies:

• Chiiori project

• アレックス・カー編ふるさとマップ

I so agree with Rui Inaba.

Y'know this is all tripe. I've been living in Japan since '99. I watched Koizumi get 'elected' and 're-elected' on promises of aggressive reform.

Has anything happened since? NOPE.

Japans problems are as murky as Saudi Oil Fields. No one knows just how deep they run.

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Samantha and Rebecca are in Seoul and blog on the World Economic Forum weblog we started earlier this year in Warsaw. Here is an update on Japan: Japan's recovery: where next?At a press conference before the Roundtable began, Heizo Takenaka, Read More

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