Shinzo Abe (centre) speaks during a meeting of government and ruling party officials at his office in Tokyo on Wednesday. AP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved on Wednesday a new $1.1 trillion stimulus package that includes significant direct spending, to stop the coronavirus pandemic pushing the world’s third-largest economy deeper into recession.
The record stimulus of 117 trillion yen, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, followed another 117 trillion yen package rolled out last month.
The new package takes Japan’s total spending to combat the virus fallout to 234 trillion yen ($2.18 trillion), or about 40% of gross domestic product.
The combined spending ranks among the world’s largest fiscal packages to deal with the coronavirus, approaching the size of the United States’ $2.3 trillion aid programme.
The latest package includes 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said.
“We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead,” Abe told a meeting of ruling party lawmakers. “We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic.” To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021.
That will push new bond issuance for this fiscal year to a record 90 trillion yen. Inclusive of issuance to roll over debt maturing during the year, Japan’s total calendar-base annual market issuance would hit a record 212 trillion yen, further straining already tattered finances.
Both stimulus and JGB issuance plans were in line with Reuters reports published earlier on Wednesday.
While the Bank of Japan is likely to keep borrowing costs low with aggressive bond buying, the surprise increase in issuance of super-long bonds could trigger some market volatility, analysts say.
“The BOJ’s yield curve control should prevent a spike in long-term interest rates,” said Chotaro Morita, the chief bond strategist at SMBC Nikko Security. “Volatility in the JGB market will depend on the BOJ’s ability to control its bond purchases.” Under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides the short-term interest rate at -0.1% and the 10-year bond yield at around 0%.
The new package will include measures such as higher medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales.
To prepare for a possible second wave of infections, the government set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending.
To facilitate financing, the government pledged to top up financial assistance to firms hit by the pandemic to 140 trillion yen, from 45 trillion yen in the previous package, by boosting interest-free lending, offering subordinate loans and supply of capital.
The packages took the size of this fiscal year’s budget to a record 160 trillion yen, with new bond issuance making up 56.3% of annual budget revenue and raising the spectre of more bond issues later to offset falling tax income.
“There’s a possibility of a third extra budget,” said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank. “Japan may face the risk of credit downgrade in the medium to long run.” Meanwhile, Renault, Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp said on Wednesday they would each take a lead on car manufacturing in different regions in a wide-ranging revamp of their partnership to slash costs and survive.
The three carmakers are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic which engulfed them just as they were trying to rework their alliance after the arrest in 2018 and subsequent ousting of its chairman and chief architect, Carlos Ghosn.
The auto makers are aiming to make savings by sharing out their production more systematically in a so-called leader-follower system, with one company leading for a particular type of vehicle and geography and the others following.
They said in a joint statement that they aimed to produce nearly half of their car output under the new leader-follower approach by 2025 and hoped to cut investment per model by up to 40% for vehicles under the scheme.
Nissan will take the lead in Japan, China and North America Renault will be the reference for Europe, Russia, South America and North Africa while Mitsubishi will lead in Southeast Asia and Oceania, the companies said, Executives for the carmakers said they would be more focused on producing models efficiently than on volumes while the range of vehicles produced is expected to shrink by 20% by 2025.
A survey published in the Nikkei daily on Monday showed 55% of respondents disapproved of Abe's handling of the crisis, up 11 points from a previous poll, although support for his cabinet was little changed at 49%, after a decline this year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference at 6pm (0900 GMT) when he is expected to announce the lifting of the emergency in 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures, but not in Tokyo.
The state of emergency, giving authorities more power to press people to stay at home and businesses to close, will last through May 6 and be imposed in the capital, Tokyo, and six other prefectures - accounting for about 44% of Japan's population.
A gauge of global equity markets rose to a new high on Friday as US consumer spending in July suggested a strong economic rebound lies ahead, while the Japanese yen surged on safe-haven buying after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned for health reasons.
Commenting on the recent agreement forged at the G20 meet to link Middle East countries by railway and connect them to India through seaports, Bin Sulayem stressed that the ultimate objective was to expedite the delivery of goods and introduce new alternative routes.
The UAE economy is forecast to grow 3 per cent in 2023 and 4 per cent in 2024, driven by the non-oil sector, which is expected to benefit from strong growth in tourism,
This important accomplishment has been fulfilled under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council, and the supervision of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE.