Japan’s relative prosperity has decreased considerably in the past decade, apparent in the steady decline of Japan’s GDP per capita ranking. Japanese consumers have continued to save throughout this period, but while the rest of the industrialised world has enjoyed record capital growth, their own return on capital has been extremely poor.
Innovative financial products and instruments commonly used in Europe have not been available in Japan, as the regulatory framework is not conducive to services and structures that do not fit into predetermined categories and prescriptions. Reform of the Japanese financial sector has been high on the Government’s agenda ever since the burst of the bubble in the early 1990s. The Hashimoto “Big Bang” reforms initiated in 1998, which allowed for the formation of financial holding companies, were followed by consolidation of the banking sector and efforts to clean up bad debts and non-performing loans under the Koizumi cabinet. Multiple financial services regulators were streamlined and a no-action letter process was introduced to enhance transparency, while limited structural reform was achieved by enabling Japanese city banks to engage concurrently in trust and banking businesses. The committee works to achieve further significant reforms in the financial sector, which in fact, would position Japan as a leading global financial centre.