Weekly international investment round up to 14 July 2009
• Amid a deep recession Japanese PM calls General Election
• After years of power a political dynasty could be ending
After a near half-century of rule the credit crunch’s next casualty looks set to be the Government of Japan. Embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso has called a General Election for the end of August sending leading shares in Japan spiralling downwards as political turmoil looks set to add to the country’s continuing economic woes.
The leader of the second largest economy in the world but the one with the highest public debt had little choice but to do so following a humiliating defeat in the country’s local elections and in the midst of a crippling recession the signs are that after such a long time in power the swords are now out for ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Following the news Japan’s main share index fell to its lowest close in eight weeks on Monday as political uncertainty grows in the country. In order to put Monday’s close of 9,050 points into some kind of context two years ago the Nikkei 225 index was hovering around the 17,200 range and for further reference, the Nikkei’s record all time high of 38,915.87 was recorded in December 1989 while its record low of 85.25 dated back to July 1950. Investors who regularly follow the peaks and troughs of the Japanese stock markets will note that its performance often resembles something of the skyline of the Akaishi Mountain range.
Considered by many as a very remote, inward-looking and shielded nation the impact that this beautiful country made up of over 6,000 islands has on each of our daily lives often goes disregarded. Even here in Malta, I would guess that if you don’t drive one of their cars your neighbour probably does while after turning off Japanese made lap-top many would then go to switch on a Japanese manufactured TV set.
As Asia’s largest economy, the world’s fourth largest exporter, the sixth largest importer and the third largest nation in terms of purchasing power what happens in Japan ripples out and affects us all whether we happen to realise it or not.
Prime Minister Aso who took office in September is Japan’s fourth leader in three years and although his party has steadily been losing ground Mr Aso’s public faux pas has done little to rally support. He has accused his own country’s doctors of lacking common sense whilst almost committing Hara Kiri by insulting one of his political party’s largest support groups, the elderly. Since calling them ‘feeble’ and questioning why he should pay taxes for those that ‘just eat and drink and make no effort’, his support has plummeted allowing the opposition party to race ahead in the opinion polls and led many senior citizens which make up almost 20 per cent of the population to make a Western play-on-words for their Prime Ministers surname!
By turning the elderly against him in this deeply conservative country Mr Aso could now cause his party the lose the control they have enjoyed for so long, bringing an economic dynasty to an end and sparking some much needed reforms. Although yet to fall upon it this last Samurai’s sword would certainly appear unsheathed.