Wednesday, September 25, a group of about 100 economists and traders were invited to meet with the prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe to hear an important speech on “Abenomics” at the N.Y. Stock Exchange. The Prime Minister provided a broad based overview of his financial objectives for the next several years then took questions from the guests. He followed his remarks with a tour of the stock exchange floor by New York Stock Exchange CEO Duncan Niederauer. Niederauer spent 3 years working in Japan 20 years ago. The Prime Minister then climbed the stairs to the balcony above the trading floor and rang the closing bell.
Prime Minister Abe’s remarks were wide ranging with multiple American cultural analogies including Muriel Siebert (the first woman to hold a seat on the exchange), Antonio Rivera (home run king), hot dog vendors, and controversially, Gordon Gecko (“Greed is good!”).
Prime Minister Abe’s comments on women were very interesting. He quoted Ms. Siebert (referencing the Middle-East) as having stated no country can compete fully without using all their human resources. This is in reference to the cultural practice in Japan of women dropping out of the workforce to have children and not returning. Japanese women have told me this is something they must do in order to prepare their children to get into good colleagues and universities. There are limited, good, day care options for professional women. Getting into a good colleague in Japan is dependent on getting into a good primary school. Under “Abenomics” Japan is focusing on developing day care centers to free up women to participate more fully in the economy.
Most importantly “Abenomics” is focused on eliminating the barriers to foreign direct investment through reducing or eliminating financial and safety compliance requirements (focusing on self reporting and safety certification). Much as France and Ireland have recently begun aggressively courting foreign direct investment, Prime Minister Abe is focused on removing barriers to trade. Japan’s on the right trend, with the last two economic quarters positive.
His reference to Gordon Gecko, the corporate raider in “Money Never Sleeps” with Michael Douglas was not completely effective. “Today, I have come to tell you that Japan will once again be a country where there is money to be made, and that just as Gordon Gekko made a comeback in the financial world … so too can we now say that ‘Japan is Back’,” Prime Minister Abe said. This remark caused some commentary in the press this morning but I think Prime Minister Abe was trying to say after the recent economic slump Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is focused on welcoming companies particularly technology companies and green energy. The country is rehabilitating the financial infrastructure to facilitate foreign direct investment.
Thanks to Dr. Dale Akinla for facilitating the meeting!