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  • Author: John Greenwood
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article provides an overview of the three episodes of quantitative easing (QE) pursued by the Bank of Japan (BOJ) since 2001. It begins with a brief account of the initial reluctant shift to unorthodox policies under BOJ Governors Hayami and Fukui in 2001–06 (here designated QE1) and then covers the equally reluctant adoption of QE by Governor Shirakawa in 2010–13 (QE2). The article then turns to an account of the attempt since April 2013 by the BOJ under Governor Kuroda, designated “quantitative and qualitative easing” (QQE), to revive the economy and achieve a 2 percent inflation target. None of these attempts at QE has been successful in raising the broad money growth rate for M2 sustainably above the 2–3 percent per annum range where it has languished for the past 25 years. Consequently, Japan’s attempts at QE have all failed to raise the equilibrium level of Japanese nominal GDP by any material magnitude, and so far, attainment of the 2 percent inflation target under QQE has remained elusive. At the time of writing (October 2016), the Japanese economy therefore continues to grow at a low rate with periodic lapses into deflation. After discussing the case of Japan, the article compares the experience of the United States in 1929–33, when there was no QE, and the experience of 2008–14, when the Fed conducted QE over three periods. The comparison is deliberately focused on the quantitative aspects of the policy, not its interest rate effects. Finally, the article explains that there are two brands of QE, and that the failure of QE in Japan is fundamentally due to the choice of the wrong brand of QE. Given the type of QE that the Japanese authorities have chosen, the policy cannot be expected to succeed, except under limited conditions.1 If QE were to be implemented according to a different design, the prospects of success would be much greater. In brief, the primary reason for the failure of BOJ-style QE or QQE derives from the habitual tendency to buy securities from banks instead of from nonbank private-sector entities (such as nonbank financial firms, nonfinancial firms, households, or foreigners). While QE policy in Japan boosts the monetary base, it does not increase broad money. But it is broad money that drives nominal GDP, not the monetary base.
  • Topic: History, Economy, Banks, Central Bank
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia