Economy of Japan

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$5.073 trillion (2009) (nominal; 3rd)

$39,573 (2009) (nominal; 23rd)

The economy of Japan is the third largest in the world[4] after the United States and the People's Republic of China but ahead of Germany at 4th. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country's per capita GDP was at $32,608 or the 23rd highest in 2009.

For three decades from 1960, Japan experienced rapid economic growth, which was referred to as the Japanese post-war economic miracle. With average growth rates of 10% in the 1960s, 5% in the 1970s, and 4% in the 1980s, Japan was able to establish and maintain itself as the world's second largest economy since 1968, until supplanted by the People's Republic of China in 2010. However, in the second half of the 1980s, rising stock and real estate prices caused the Japanese economy to overheat in what was later to be known as the Japanese asset price bubble. The economic bubble came to an abrupt end as the Tokyo Stock Exchange crashed in 1990-92 and real estate prices peaked in 1991. Growth in Japan throughout the 1990s at 1.5% was slower than growth in other major developed economies, giving use to the term Lost Decade.

The problems of the 1990s may have been exacerbated by domestic policies intended to wring speculative excesses from the stock and real estate markets. With government efforts to revive economic growth throughout the 1990s unsuccessful, Junichiro Koizumi adopted policies to promote exports, effectively raising GDP on an average of 2.1% annually from 2003 to 2007. Subsequently, the global financial crisis and a collapse in domestic demand saw the economy shrink 1.2% in 2008 and 5.0% in 2009.

A mountainous, volcanic island country, Japan has inadequate natural resources to support its growing economy and large population. Although many kinds of minerals were extracted throughout the country, most mineral resources had to be imported in the postwar era. Local deposits of metal-bearing ores were difficult to process because they were low grade. The nation's large and varied forest resources, which covered 70 percent of the country in the late 1980s, were not utilized extensively. Because of political decisions on local, prefectural, and nation levels, Japan decided not to exploit its forest resources for economic gain. Domestic sources only supplied between 25 and 30 percent of the nation's timber needs. Agriculture and fishing were the best developed resources, but only through years of painstaking investment and toil. The nation therefore built up the manufacturing and processing industries to convert raw materials imported from abroad. This strategy of economic development necessitated the establishment of a strong economic infrastructure to provide the needed energy, transportation, communications, and technological know-how.

Deposits of gold, magnesium, and silver meet current industrial demands, but Japan is dependent on foreign sources for many of the minerals essential to modern industry. Iron ore, copper, bauxite, and alumina must be imported, as well as many forest products.

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