Financial strains and the zero lower bound: the Japanese experience

BIS Working Papers No 141
September 2003
We analyse the case of persistent deflation in Japan by estimating the long-run Phillips curve equation using the GDP deflator and the estimated GDP gap. Then we show that the Japanese banking sector has been losing money since the early 1990s due to the heavy credit cost and that it is quickly running out of capital. The Japanese government has been preventing a banking crisis by providing a blanket guarantee on most banking sector liabilities. However, the government is facing a rapid deterioration of financial conditions due to massive budget deficits and the negative nominal GDP growth in recent years. In spite of the quantitative easing of monetary policy, the traditional interest rate policy has lost its potency due to the zero lower bound of nominal interest rates and accelerating deflation. Without stopping deflation quickly, the Japanese government may face capital flight due to the uncontrolled budget deficit. In order to cope with this unusual situation, two nontraditional policy measures are proposed: massive open market purchases of high-quality real assets and a negative nominal interest policy by levying tax on all government-guaranteed yen financial assets.

On 28-29 March 2003, the BIS held a conference on "Monetary stability, financial stability and the business cycle". This event brought together central bankers, academics and market participants to exchange views on this issue (see the conference programme and list of participants in this document). This paper was presented at the conference. Also included in this publication are the comments by the discussants. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not those of the BIS. The opening speech at the conference by the BIS General Manager and the prepared remarks of the four participants on the policy panel are being published in a single volume in the BIS Papers series.