Category Archives: BUSINESS

Japan gambles on casinos to fix its economic woes

Visitors play pachinko, a Japanese form of legal gambling, at a pachinko parlour in Fukushima, Japan, 24 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Authors: Naoko Takiguchi, Otani University and Yuko Kawanishi, JF Oberlin University

By the end of the 2020s, large-scale casinos will arrive in Japan where gambling is strictly prohibited by law and not favoured in opinion polls. There is concern that casinos will increase gambling addiction and criminal activity — but casino supporters loudly advocate their potential power to revitalise Japan’s declining economy.

Amid the heated controversy regarding the establishment of the casino business, a political scandal erupted. Tsukasa Akimoto — a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — was arrested for accepting a bribe from a Chinese company seeking to gain entry to the integrated resort market in Japan, although he denies the allegation. Akimoto was a deputy minister in the Cabinet Office from August 2017 to September 2019 and eager to promote the establishment of casinos.

The bribery scandal is fuelling the anger of those opposed to the government’s casino plan. The most recent opinion poll by the Kyodo News agency on 11 and 12 January shows that more than 70 per cent of respondents want the government to re-examine this casino promotion agenda. Opposition parties are urging the casino plan to be completed dropped.

But as the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito dominate both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is confident about getting the casino policies passed — while repeating he would do so ‘conscientiously’.

Is such an important issue going to be passed without a thorough analysis?

The Japanese government has long avoided fundamental debate regarding the legitimacy of gambling. Japan has never had gambling policies. Even today, comprehensive gambling policies do not exist. Articles 185 and 186 in the Japanese Penal Code state ‘a person who gambles shall be punished by a fine …continue reading

    

Business must brace for the new national security economy

Workers transport goods on a truck near a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China 13 September, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Brad Glosserman, Tama University

Relations between the United States and China will continue to deteriorate despite the phase one trade deal signed in January 2020. The mood, at least among US elites, has shifted. A former White House official recently identified two schools of China policy: hardline and ultra-hardline. Significantly, the dividing lines are not between political parties but within them.

Businesses must rethink standard operating procedures and policies in the wake of intensifying competition between the world’s two leading economies. Executives must prepare for the new national security economy. Regulatory reforms have already begun and managers and decision-makers must be sensitive to this new reality.

The US National Security Strategy published December 2017 identifies a world marked by great power competition. While there will be a military dimension, it will be seen primarily in the economic arena and develop most fiercely in the arena of emerging technologies as the United States competes with China to create the world’s largest innovative economy. During the Cold War, attention was paid to technology leakage with military applications. That concern persists but today governments recognise that the country which dominates the frontiers of new technologies will prevail in the race for global leadership.

Since the United States and China are both deeply embedded in global supply chains, their policies have a profound impact on the behaviour of businesses worldwide. US Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks in October 2018 at the Hudson Institute make it clear that Washington is looking hard at private sector behaviour as it engages China. While US action gets most of the attention, China is also implementing measures to promote indigenous development and insulate its supply chains from political disruption.

The 2019 US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calls for the identification …continue reading

    

New housing starts drop 4% in 2019

New housing starts across Japan in 2019 dropped 4.0% from the previous year to 905,123 units. This is the third year in a row to see a year-on-year decline. This was primarily due to a tightening on lending for investment-type apartment blocks after a widespread loan fraud scandal came to light in 2018.

Rental housing, including ‘apaato’-type flats, dropped 13.7% to 342,289 units. Meanwhile, homes built for owner-occupiers increased by 1.9% to 288,738 units, and condominiums increased by 4.9% to 267,696 units. Condominium units over 170 sqm (1,829 sq.ft) represented 0.5% of the total supply nationwide, while units over 250 sqm (2,690 sq.ft) represented just 0.04% of the supply.

The average construction cost of a detached house nationwide was 23,270,000 Yen, while the average house size was 119 sqm (1,280 sq.ft). 90% of the homes were wood-frame, while 1% were reinforced concrete.

Source: The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, January 31, 2020.

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The post New housing starts drop 4% in 2019 appeared first on JAPAN PROPERTY CENTRAL.

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Another real estate company facing mortgage fraud allegations

The Nikkei Shimbun newspaper broke the story of yet another real estate company that is alleged to have been signing up buyers for home loans on investment properties. The news caused the company’s share price to plummet by as much as a third in the week following the news report.

The company, founded in 2000, is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and boasts of being the industry’s leading home loan financial institution.

The newspaper reported at least 10 instances of loan application fraud, the majority of which involved investors with annual incomes of under 3 million Yen. One buyer received a home loan to purchase an investment property despite having no employment at the time of purchase, while their home loan application had been fraudulently filled in to say the borrower had an income of over 5 million Yen. A second buyer reported their income tax certificate had been falsified to triple their actual salary.

Most investors had fallen for spruiky sales-talk that included guaranteed rental returns promising rent regardless of whether the property was tenanted or not. Pushy sales convinced a young investor to buy a studio apartment in Nerima, Tokyo, for 30 million Yen. Some found that the guaranteed rent period was cut short or the promised rent decreased after purchase, while others discovered they had paid well above market price for their apartment. Toyo Keizai reported that some of the buyers had paid as much as double the actual market price, while the guaranteed rent was also double the market rate.

The fraudulent loan cases appear to have originated from two of the company’s franchisees in Kanagawa Prefecture, both of which are not directly operated by the company.

A word of warning:

Altering official government documents, such as income tax statements, and lying on loan applications, can lead to serious …continue reading

    

Japan’s risky new resource strategy

An Aurizon coal train travels through the countryside in Muswellbrook, north of Sydney, Australia, 9 April 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed).

Author: Llewelyn Hughes, ANU

The second Japan–Australia Economic Ministerial Dialogue was held on 10 January in Melbourne. Before the meeting, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama described Australia as a key strategic partner for Japan. The Minister noted this year’s discussions focus on collaboration in hydrogen and ‘carbon-recycling’, in addition to trade and other issues.

The introduction of ‘carbon recycling’ to Australia–Japan bilateral dialogue reflects a big change in Japan’s international resources strategy.

Japan has spent huge sums of money on energy security policies to diversify the energy sources used to fuel its economy, and the locations from which it imports fuel. The Japanese nuclear power program was a central plank of this mission prior to the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011.

The Japanese government is now tackling climate change in its resource strategy by introducing a suite of policies it labels ‘carbon recycling’. In doing so, Japan is linking its technology-centred approach to climate change mitigation to long-standing energy security policies that enjoy legitimacy across all branches of government.

Australia as a key partner

Japan’s ‘carbon recycling’ agenda includes support for technologies designed to capture carbon dioxide and use it to generate a range of commodities including chemicals, fuels and concrete products.

Australia has long been a partner in Japan’s resource strategy, gaining billions of dollars in investment in natural gas, coal, and increasingly rare earth elements. It is emerging as a key partner in the new ‘carbon recycling’ initiative.

On 25 September 2019, the then minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to explore joint research and development into technologies that see ‘carbon dioxide as a resource, rather than viewing it merely as a waste product’. The Japan–Australia Energy and Resources Dialogue was …continue reading