The Japanese have always been fascinated with Europe. They modelled their system of government on Britain’s, as well as their health care system and roads; their railways owe something to France; their banks are being remodelled in German fashion. But right now it is another less familiar nook of Europe that is provoking the most attention: Greece.
No prizes for guessing why. With Athens having last week agreed a set of unprecedented austerity cuts and declared itself open to the prospect of an International Monetary Fund bail-out, the Japanese are asking themselves whether a similar fate lies in store for them.
The statistics do not bode well. Like Greece, Japan’s net debt is close to the 120pc of gross domestic product mark. The deficit is still climbing every year. The country’s credit rating has been cut again and again, leaving it far below AAA ranking. Its debt interest payments and refinancing costs account for over 20pc of its annual spending.
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