Japan has suffered from sluggish economic growth and recession since the early 1990s. In this paper, we analyze the causes of the prolonged slowdown of the Japanese economy (the lost decade). Economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has argued that Japan's lost decade is an example of a liquidity trap. However, our empirical analysis shows that stagnation of the Japanese economy comes from its vertical IS curve rather than a horizontal LM curve, so the Japanese economy has been facing structural problems rather than a temporary downturn. The vertical IS curve is caused by an insensitivity of investment to a lower interest rate partly because of the decline of sales due to the aging population and firms not wanting to invest. The structural problems come from the aging demographic, which is often neglected by scholars and policy-makers, and also from the allocation of transfers from the central government to local governments, and the unwillingness of Japanese banks to lend money to startup businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), mainly because of Basel capital requirements. Many countries, like China, are expected to face similar issues, particularly given the aging population. The present paper will address why the Japanese economy has been trapped in a prolonged slowdown and provide some remedies for revitalizing the economy.
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