The Macroeconomic Experience of Japan Since 1990: An Empirical Investigation

Warwick J. McKibbin
Warwick McKibbin
Warwick J. McKibbin Former expert - Economic Studies, Center on Regulation and Markets, Distinguished Professor of Economics & Public Policy - Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University

June 1, 1997


This paper outlines the macroeconomic experiences of the Japanese economy since 1990. The MSG2 multi-country model is used to determine the extent to which the strong yen and growth experience of Japan over this period was due to underlying trends in the Japanese economy and to what extent shocks such as changes in the settings of monetary and fiscal policies in Japan and overseas, as well as the Kobe earthquake, played a role.

It is shown that many of the key features of the Japanese economy over this period can be attributed to inappropriate macroeconomic policy settings in Japan as well as reflecting long term trends due to population changes and a maturing of the Japanese economy. In particular, it is shown that announcing expansionary fiscal policy in advance of implementation and exaggerating the extent of actual stimulus, tended to appreciate the yen and raise long term real interest rates which further reduced real GDP growth over the period.

The extent to which macroeconomic policy rather than entrenched structural problems can explain the experience suggests that future prospects for the Japanese economy are not as bleak as sometimes predicted. Growth is unlikely to return to the high levels experienced in previous decades because of the maturing of the Japanese economy and low future population growth in Japan.

This paper projects growth to be sustainable at around 2.5% per year over the next decade and a continual appreciation of the yen in both real and nominal terms.