Sunday, October 28, 2012

Worthwhile Reads for October 28, 2012

Philip Brasor is a professional writer...and it shows. He has been writing for the print edition of The Japan Times for what seems an eternity, which makes him eligible for some kind of "bravely facing adversity" award. A while back he and I both contributed essays to a book produced by the tireless Our Man from Abiko. The difference in the quality of the essays left me feeling a deep sense of shame.

Brasor and his partner Tsukuba Masako have published a cracking essay for anyone who has ever wondered, "Given the parade of turkeys the major parties foist upon the electorate, why is it that individuals possessing talent, charm and a modicum of sense fail to throw their hats in the ring? This blessed land boasts an educated and informed electorate, half of whom have no allegiance to any party. A bright and competent person, clearly able to walk and eat a rice cake at the same time, should be able to waltz in and crush the party offerings."

One answer, and it is a big one, is the kyotakukin. Brasor and Tsukuba explain it -- and pay tribute in passing to the Japan Communist Party's almost insane commitment to electoral democracy. For those in need of a comparative figure, 3 million yen is one third of the annual salary of a managerial class employee with 10 years service in a company.

Brasor and Tsukuba - "Candidate deposit requirement guarantees same faces on the ballot"

The essay is the latest post to the pair's economics blog Yen for Living, hosted on The Japan Times' website.

Brasor and Tsukuba also produce a fascinating personal blog on what would seem an unpromising subject: looking for housing in the Kanto area: Cat Foreheads & Rabbit Hutches.

In the "Could it be that simple?" department, The Diplomat published an essay a few weeks back offering possible relief for Japanese exporters exhausted by the hoops one must leap through to do business in China. According James Parker, to finance consultant and lecturer, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), which the PRK government has promoted as a way of increasing Chinese influence over the economic life of ASEAN countries mutual prosperity, opens a back door, through the law of unintended consequences, for Japanese companies to sell their wares and services in China without the hassle of being in China,. That these companies will also likely end up paying lower wages is a bonus.

Parker - "The Coming Economic Shift?"

It sounds all to good to be true -- and Parker admits, given the gap in between the logistics web and the transport infrastructure China offers and and the capacities of ASEAN countries (pax Singapore and pockets of Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines) -- making the "ASEAN workaround" pay off will be difficult, in the short run.

However, with the government of China making only cosmetic efforts at lessening the risks and aggravations Japanese companies face in China, and with the government of Japan, probably at the initiative of pro-active bureaucrats, quietly ramping up economic diplomacy in the parts of ASEAN where the China has enjoyed undue influence for the last few decades (Link), predictions of an inevitable decline in Japan's engagement with ASEAN (Link) may turn out to have been premature.

2 comments:

sigma1 said...

For those paying attention, I would argue that Myanmar is the (rather sweet and generous) icing on the cake for Japan's ASEAN transition which has been quietly taking place for a while now. The Diplomat article on Japan's ASEAN policy, if authored 5 to 7 years ago, would have been appropriate, but now looks laughable, especially given what has been happening on the other side of the Sino-Japanese geopolitical competition in SE Asia ledger.

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