Category Archives: BUSINESS

Deepening Japan’s cooperation with Papua New Guinea

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill as he arrives for the APEC Summit, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 17 November 2018. (Photo: Reuters/David Gray)

Author: Shane McLeod, Lowy Institute

A small but telling glimpse of Japan’s diplomatic approach in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was the soundtrack as world leaders gathered in Port Moresby in 2018 for the APEC leaders’ summit. The ability of the PNG Defence Force band to trumpet national anthems through the tropical heat was in no small part thanks to Japan which has been supporting the band since 2014 with training and instruments through its aid program.

It is an example of the low-profile but strategic support that the world’s third-largest economy is known for in its relationship with PNG.

Japan may be set to take a much more prominent role in PNG’s political and economic future as it pledges to help the country’s economy recovery from the coronavirus pandemic — with speculation that it may be central to a mooted IMF-managed bailout of the country’s government finances.

Japan’s presence in PNG since its independence is often understated. Japan is a generous development partner and regularly ranks as PNG’s third-largest bilateral aid donor. It is known for delivering aid projects with a focus on quality infrastructure. Recent examples include funding an upgrade of Port Moresby’s dilapidated sewerage treatment capability, improvements to electrical transmission networks in the Ramu grid that serves the industrial city of Lae, as well as the coming upgrade of that city’s airport to international standard.

Japanese companies are critical investors in PNG’s economy. They have been foundation investors in oil and gas projects including the massive PNG LNG project. Japan is also a major customer for the country’s resource outputs including oil, gas …continue reading


Debt relief for homeowners could arrive in December

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) is firming up plans that would reduce or exempt home loan repayments for struggling borrowers. These are extraordinary measures that would apply to those who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, and help to prevent home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies.

The measures could be implemented as early as December 1.

Back in October, the Guidelines for Debt Consolidation for Victims of Natural Disasters (2015) was revised with references to the coronavirus added. The FSA has already started briefing the Japanese Bankers Association Japan Federation of Bar Association. Under the Disaster Relief Act, eligible borrowers can consult with their bank to decide on a course of action to avoid foreclosure. This may include extending the repayment schedule or even selling the mortgaged property. These debt consolidation measures are typically only used in times of natural disaster, and only 498 cases to date have been granted.

Kyodo, October 5, 2020.
The Tokyo Shimbun, October 5, 2020.

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Filing patent applications in Japan to obtain patents in India fast

On November 21 2019, Japan and India signed an agreement to start a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot program. The PPH is a cooperative program to facilitate an acquisition of a patent by utilizing search and examination results at other patent office. Japan is the world’s first country that corporates with India for such a patent acceleration program.

In India, it reportedly takes about 7 years to obtain a patent. However, under the PPH program, it is expected to be able to obtain a patent within a year and a half for the corresponding Japanese patent.

In this agreement, the technical fields of applications eligible for Indian patent office are limited to computer science, information technology, machinery, automobiles etc., and not include medical or biotechnology (cf. There’s no limitation for the Japan Patent Office). Also, the Office of First Filing must be Japan or India.

So, if Japan further discusses with India to expand the scope of the PPH to the MOTTAINAI, it would be really great. The PPH MOTTAINAI is more user-friendly, and under the MOTTAINAI program, an applicant can make PPH requests at the Office of Later Examination (OLE) by using the examination results of the Office of Earlier Examination (OEE), provided that the OEE and OLE have a PPH MOTTAINAI agreement.

The JPO provides excellent examination services in both quality and speed. The total pendency for patent examinations (i.e. from Request for Examination to Establishment of Right) was 14.1 months on average in 2017, according to JPO STATUS REPORT 2019.

So, if Japan and India sign the agreement for the MOTTAINAI program, some foreign applicants may have an interest in filing patent applications in Japan for an option for obtaining patents …continue reading


Paying for a pandemic

An employee counts Myanmar kyat banknotes in a bank in Yangon (Photo: Reuters/Minzayar).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

‘Follow the money’ — that’s how political scandal was uncovered in the 1976 drama All the President’s Men. When it comes to the financial cost of COVID-19, following the money is just as revealing. Not only does it give insights into how best to address the health and economic fallout from COVID-19 in Asia, it also shows how COVID-19’s financial implications are shaping Asia’s geopolitics.

In this week’s lead essay, Adam Triggs explores how Asia’s developing countries are paying for the COVID-19 pandemic. The results expose a stark divide across the region. While Asia’s developed countries are relying entirely on their central banks and finance ministries, Asia’s developing countries are, on average, relying on multilateral bodies and bilateral aid for almost 50 per cent of their financing of the economic fallout they face.

Where is this money coming from? Triggs finds that more than half of the external assistance to Asia’s developing countries ‘is coming from the Asian Development Bank, 20 per cent from the World Bank, 10 per cent from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, 8 per cent from the IMF, and 5 per cent from bilateral aid (predominantly from the United States, Japan and Australia). The remainder is coming primarily from the Islamic Development Bank and the United Nations’.

These findings have big implications for Asia, not just for how to beat COVID-19 and strengthen the post-COVID-19 recovery, but also in how these financial developments are shaping Asia’s geopolitics.

The findings underscore the critical importance of multilateral and bilateral finance in beating the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Any deficiencies in this external assistance translate directly into a less effective response to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Ultimately, in a highly interconnected region, this puts all countries at risk, developed and developing …continue reading


Tokyo Apartment rents hit ceiling

According to Tokyo Kantei, the average advertised monthly rent of a condominium in Tokyo’s 23 wards was 3,845 Yen/sqm in September 2020, down 0.4% from the previous month but up 4.6% from last year.

Asking rents in the capital have remained relatively stable since March.

Yokohama City saw a month-on-month increase of 0.4% and a year-on-year increase of 16.4%.

Osaka City saw advertised rents drop 3.9% from the previous month and 1.7% from last year to 2,445 Yen/sqm. Nagoya City saw rents drop for the third month in a row with a 2.3% decrease from the previous month, although they are up 1.0% from September 2019.

Source: Tokyo Kantei, October 15, 2020.

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Asia won’t beat COVID-19 without international money

A monk withdraws money from an ATM in Vientiane, Laos (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Adam Triggs, ANU

AUD$2.5 trillion (US$1.8 trillion) — that’s how much Asia’s developing economies have spent so far in combating the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. On average they are spending the equivalent of 27 per cent of GDP, about the same as Asia’s developed economies when you add up government spending, tax cuts and central bank initiatives.

There is one thing that is very different between Asia’s developed and developing economies: where the money is coming from.

While Asia’s developed economies are relying on their central banks and finance ministries, data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shows that Asia’s developing economies are relying heavily on international and bilateral money.

This is a problem. Asia won’t beat COVID-19 without sufficient and reliable external finance, and there are plenty of things that need to be done to strengthen access to it.

On average, Asia’s developing economies are getting 49 per cent of their COVID-19 financing from external sources. This is not by choice — Asia’s developing countries rely on external finance because they lack the fiscal and monetary policy space enjoyed by developed economies to deal with the crisis. Shallow and inefficient financial markets make monetary policy less effective. Porous tax systems, foreign-denominated debt and flighty foreign investors reduce fiscal firepower.

Strengthening Asia’s health and economic response to COVID-19 means strengthening Asia’s access to multilateral financial resources. But multilateral resources are not all created equal. The primary international body to help countries facing financial stress is the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF is providing financial support to more than 100 countries around the world. Yet, when it comes to Asia the IMF is providing a mere 8 per cent of the total external support.

This is not surprising to those familiar with Asia’s financial history. The IMF’s …continue reading


Uber Eats Japan offering strange discount just for people who don’t really need Uber Eats

Telling the food delivery company you don’t need them to deliver your food nets you some extra cash. While Uber’s ride-sharing initiative has had next to no impact in Japan, Uber Eats is a major hit. With a wide selection of restaurant options, easy ordering, and the convenience of home delivery, what’s not to like? […]

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Demand returns to Tokyo’s once-overlooked suburbs

If you think the residential real estate industry is suffering at the moment, think again. Data shows that brokerages and developers are just as busy now as they were last year.

Surveys carried out by Recruit Sumai Company in December and again in May showed a striking change in buyer preferences. In December, 40% of home buyers placed closeness to a train station as the most important criterion, while 40% preferred more space. In May, only 30% were focused on train access, with 52% putting size as their main priority. In terms of total commute time, 34% of respondents said they would consider a public transport commute of over 30 minutes, a 10 point increase from the previous survey.

The developer of a 1,000-unit residential condo near Ebina Station in Kanagawa Prefecture had 140 groups through their showroom over the 4-day weekend in mid-September. Within Tokyo, a budget of around 40 ~ 50 million Yen might get a one or two-bedroom apartment, while three-bedroom apartments in the Ebina project can be found in the 40 million Yen range. It is around a 70 ~ 80-minute train ride into Tokyo’s Otemachi business district.

Real estate developers have been responding to the shift in demand, carefully adjusting the supply of new condos in areas that are seeing a boost in demand. This was apparent in August with Chiba Prefecture seeing a 296% increase in the supply of brand-new apartments released for sale by developers. Saitama saw supply jump by 179.4%, while Kanagawa saw a 41.7% increase. Tokyo’s 23 wards saw supply drop by 51%.

Detached home sales may be a leading indicator of the changes afoot, with annual detached house starts in greater Tokyo typically double those of condominiums. According to REINS, a total of 573 newly-built homes were reported to have sold …continue reading


The rise of lockdown radicalism

Filipino soldiers are pictured on the site of an explosion in Jolo Island, Sulu province, Philippines, 24 August 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Nickee Butlangan).

Author: Farooq Yousaf, University of Newcastle

COVID-19 lockdowns throughout the world have aggravated socio-political inequalities, especially in the Global South as governments try to respond to the pandemic. Various terrorist, radical and violent extremist groups, especially the so-called Islamic State, are trying to cash in on these inequalities to propagate hate-filled narratives.

In Nigeria, for instance, Boko Haram has called the closure of mosques — a precaution taken in response to COVID-19 — a direct ‘attack on Islam‘. Similarly, there remains fear among security experts that as the lockdowns continue to confine people to their homes, radical and violent extremist groups are gaining an opportunity to radicalise ‘younger‘ audiences who are spending more unsupervised time on the Internet.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) Deputy Director-General Heather Cook, speaking at the Australian Parliament’s Joint Intelligence and Security Committee, also warned that the conditions arising out of the pandemic have provided extremist groups, including neo-Nazi organisations, the means to radicalise more people.

In a recent meeting of the UN Security Council on pressing global security issues in August, counter-terrorism experts noted a spike in the so-called Islamic State’s (IS) online activities. Experts also reiterated the importance of repatriating terrorist families stranded in the Middle East to prevent IS from spreading its influence. These concerns indicate that the threat from violent extremist and terrorist groups such as IS remains within both ‘virtual’ (online) and ‘physical’ (family) networks.

In recent months, IS’s online propaganda campaign — unlike its coherent media campaigns during the group’s peak before 2017 — has mushroomed, with supporters all over the world running individual campaigns. According to Michael Krona, much of the IS literature is now propagated by IS supporters through bots on Telegram …continue reading


COVID-19 reminds us to prioritize “water supply, sanitation, and hygiene” (WASH) to reduce child mortality

COVID-19 reminds us to prioritize “water supply, sanitation, and hygiene” (WASH) to reduce child mortality

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has registered 959,116 deaths worldwide as of 21 September 2020. While the number is alarming, it is still not large compared with the 5.2 million children who died due to various causes in 2019, according to UNICEF. COVID-19 reminds us how much child mortality continues to be a significant challenge for global health and the global economy. In addition to the loss of human lives, the economic consequences are also significant. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook (IMF 2020) estimates negative growth of 4.9% in 2020 for the global economy, while a research team at the American Association for the Advancement of Science has estimated the global cost of the pandemic to be between $8.1 trillion and $15.8 trillion. We believe improving “water supply, sanitation, and hygiene” (WASH) is an important strategy for dealing with these health and economic challenges.

In a study covering the period 2003–2013, poor water and sanitation conditions were found to lead to an increase in the child mortality rate by 38% for post-neonatal cases and 24% for children under five (Ezeh et al. 2015). As such, increased public spending on improving water and sanitation would help reduce child mortality (Gunther and Fink 2011). Alemu (2017) also observed differences in infant mortality across 33 African countries and found that a 1% improvement in access to sanitation is associated with a decrease in infant mortality of two infants per 1,000 live births.

The World Health Organization (2020) has recommended WASH and waste management programs as the most effective measures for fighting against COVID-19. Frequent and proper handwashing, water management, and sanitation services are essential for preventing the spread of the virus. The direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on child and maternal mortality have been substantial because most of the available health system …continue reading