December 2014: Revitalising Abenomics

Bronwyn Curtis dwells on OMFIF’s predictions for 2014 and gives generally high marks for prescience, although we were too pessimistic about debt restructuring in Europe and slightly too optimistic about Japan. The next stage of Shinzo Abe’s economic experiment takes place on 14 December in the early general election the prime minister has called to cement support for reforms. A more cogent reason, as Shumpei Takemori explains, is to shore up his support before his popularity almost inevitably starts to decline as the programme meets fresh hurdles. All the same, Takemori – like Grant Lewis, writing separately –is optimistic on Abe’s legacy, declaring: ‘Abe won’t be a popular prime minister, but he can accomplish great structural reforms.’ Japan is of pivotal importance, reflecting the pioneering nature of quantitative easing, stepped up again at the end of October in the face of Japan’s unexpected fall into recession, as well as the simmering tension with China in both the military and economic fields. Meanwhile Moody’s has added to unease by downgrading Japan’s credit rating. Despite all this, Kishore Mahbubani sounds a hopeful note, pointing out the symbolic importance of the (unsmiling) handshake between Abe and President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Beijing – marking one reason why he postulates a ‘golden era’ for Asia in the next 10 years. Jonathan Fenby analyses the Abe-Xi meeting from a psychological and political point of view, and is not totally convinced that the two countries have eradicated the threat of  confrontation. On Japan, John West takes a confident line, citing Abe’s corporate governance changes and a salutary spur from China. William Baunton notes the link with corporate governance in the new asset strategy of the Japanese Government Investment Fund. John Plender adopts a slightly more sceptical tone, underlining that Japan’s move into current account deficit and the debt overhang make the country much more dependent on foreign financing. John Nugée and William White look at diverse pressures faced by central banks in 2015, Harald Benink and Clas Wihlborg examine progress in European banking union, while Paul van Seters and Ruud Lubbers analyse the prospects for another ambitious step in European co-operation, the move towards a full-scale energy union in Europe to lower the continent’s dependence on outside sources, especially Russia. In our global capital markets round-up, Gary Smith examines whether sovereign funds should take demographic trends more into account, while we look, too at the fillip for the Chinese equity market engendered by the opening of the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock link-up. We round off 2014 with a melancholy look at Argentina with David Smith, while George Hoguet reviews a subject that is likely to preoccupy us in 2015 as in 2014: the scope and limitations of US power.

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