Category Archives: BUSINESS

Home loan interest rates to rise in May

Four of Japan’s leading banks will be increasing their advertised interest rates on home loans this month. This is in response to an increase in the 10-year government bond yield.

Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, and Mizuho Bank will raise the prime interest rate on their 10-year fixed-rate home loans between 0.05 and 0.15 points for new loans taken out in May. Resona Bank will leave their rate unchanged at 0.70%.

10-year fixed-rates (prime rates):

  • Sumitomo Mitsui Trust: 0.70% (up 0.10 points)
  • Sumitomo Mitsui: 1.10% (up 0.15 points)
  • Mitsubishi UFJ: 0.79% (up 0.14 points)
  • Mizuho: 0.85% (up 0.05 points)

Source: Jiji Press, April 30, 2020.

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International anarchy and failure to cope with COVID-19

President Donald Trump holds up a chart on global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing as he sits in front of coronavirus testing machines in Phoenix, Arizona, United States, 5 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Tom Brenner).

Author: Kai He, Griffith University

COVID-19 is a common enemy of humanity, yet states have still failed to work together in curbing the rampant spread of the virus. The perils of anarchy, the failure of global governance and the tragedy of great power rivalries explain why the world is feckless in coping with the pandemic. It is time for the United States and China to think about how to cooperate and lead the war on COVID-19.

Anarchy is a distinct feature of international relations. The absence of an overarching authority above states leads to self-interest as the rational behaviour for all states. COVID-19 is the apotheosis of anarchy. After the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, the predominant reaction of the world was to distance itself from China by imposing travel restrictions and shutting down borders with China. States made self-interested actions to protect themselves from the virus, but this did not stop the eventual outbreak of a pandemic.

Distrust hinders effective cooperation among states in fighting the pandemic. China started to blame countries that restricted travel with the country, while the United States saw an opportunity to urge manufacturing industries and related businesses to withdraw from China and return home. This zero-sum mentality and self-interest-driven behaviour undermines global cooperation, even in the face of a virus that is a common ‘enemy against humanity‘.

International organisations have so far failed to rise to the occasion in fighting the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has functioned as a ‘clearing house’ to offer the most authoritative information but has no power to extract information nor to enforce regulations in any country. What it can do is to issue health advice to the world based on the information voluntarily provided by member states. The …continue reading


Managing supply chain risk in a post-COVID-19 world

Workers of Chinese e-commerce retailer Suning Group sort out parcels at a distribution center of Suning in Nanjing city, east China's Jiangsu province, 13 November 2018.

Author: Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation

The coronavirus pandemic has called into question several assumptions which have underpinned global trade for decades. By the time the dust settles, the world’s approach to trade could look quite different.

Although this reconsideration predates the pandemic, extended global supply chains will make far less sense in the post-COVID-19 world. The highly touted economic efficiencies generated by extreme specialisation of production and just-in-time inventories will now be weighed against the vulnerabilities they embed across global supply chains if even just one link in the chain breaks down. Rising economic nationalism and strategic rivalries further exacerbate these vulnerabilities.

In the balance between economic efficiency and security of supply, the pendulum is swinging back towards security. This shift will apply not only to essential medical supplies but across the full spectrum of trade. Recall how many automotive production facilities, in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere, suspended operations at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak when the flow of critical components from China was interrupted.

Automotive production is not a matter of life and death, but the lesson — that over-reliance on a single market is unsustainable — remains the same. Global trends indicate that this lesson is being readily absorbed.

Businesses and governments are now actively seeking a greater hedge against dependency risk in trade. Policies encouraging more domestic production — and to keep more of what is produced at home — are being implemented across both developed and developing economies. Vietnam has banned rice exports. India has restricted exports of an antimalarial drug that might be useful in combatting COVID-19.

The United States, although later modifying its stance, interrupted shipments of facemasks produced by the US company 3M that were bound for other countries. At least 54 countries have instituted some form of export restriction on medical supplies since the beginning of …continue reading


Japan’s high-rise apartment market from 2020 to 2024 onwards

There are currently 103,100 apartments in 258 high-rise buildings planned for completion across Japan from 2020 onwards, however, the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide state of emergency declared in April 2020 may see some construction projects delayed as a result. This is an increase of 8,009 apartments and 27 buildings from the previous report issued by the Real Estate Economic Institute in March 2019.

177 of the buildings are located in the greater Tokyo area, with the total number of apartments accounting for 79.1% of the nationwide share. Within Tokyo’s 23 wards, there are 112 high-rises planned with a total of 54,952 apartments. Many of the apartments are centered in major urban redevelopment projects, as well as on man-made islands in Tokyo Bay.

50+ story apartment buildings planned across Japan

[1] Nishi-Shinjuku 3 Project (Tokyo) 2 x 65-story 3,200
[2] Toranomon-Azabudai District Project (Tokyo) 53, 64 and 65-story 1,400
[3] Tsukishima 3 Project (Tokyo) 59-story 1,120
[4] Kachidoki East Project (Tokyo) 29, 45 and 58-story 3,220
[5] Bashamichi Project (Yokohama) 58-story 1,174
[6] Minami Ikebukuro Project (Tokyo) 57-story 864
[7] Toyomi Project (Tokyo) 2 x 56-story 2,150
[8] Nishiazabu 3 Project (Tokyo) 55-story 550
[9] Toyomi Project (Tokyo) 54-story 2,097
[10] Toranomon Hills Residential Tower (Tokyo) 54-story 550

*High-rise refers to a building of 20 stories and above.

Source: The Real Estate Economic Institute, April 27, 2020.

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COVID-19 highlights Abe’s leadership failings

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe removes a protective face mask prior speaking during a news conference where he announces an extension of the nation's state of emergency amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo, Japan, 4 May, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/ Eugene Hoshiko/Pool).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s leadership capacity is being called into question in relation to how he is dealing with Japan’s COVID-19 crisis. He has appeared uncharacteristically diffident while veering between being over-hasty and too slow in his policy decisions. Abe’s typically strong and confident leadership seems to be missing in action.

In contrast, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has demonstrated decisive leadership in dealing with the virus, with rumours of a power struggle between the Prime Minister’s Office (Kantei) and the Governor, and a malfunctioning Kantei led by a Prime Minister who cannot grasp the public’s sense of crisis. Explicit comparisons have been made between Koike’s tough stance in dealing with the crisis in Tokyo and what critics call Abe’s timid and sluggish response.

A poll in mid-April showed 64 per cent disapproved of Abe’s performance in dealing with the virus outbreak. Another put the proportion of those who thought Abe had failed to show leadership at 57 per cent. Criticism was directed at some of Abe’s key policy decisions, such as his sudden, unilateral and ineffective decision to close schools until the end of March and his delay in declaring a state of emergency.

Abe’s hasty proposal to give 300,000 yen (US$2800) to needy households was criticised as ‘too limited and complicated’ and retracted. The provision of two cloth face masks to all households was derided as ‘Abenomask’, ‘too late’ and ‘stupid’, with many of the masks subsequently found to be ‘defective‘. These policy stumbles followed earlier criticisms of Abe being ‘invisible‘ for an entire month after the first case of …continue reading