The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In a densely packed conference room, nestled high above the Christmas lights of downtown Kobe’s Sannomiya district, Jesper Koll once again took center stage. The focus: a confident, whistling sermon on why we should be bullish on the Japan economy.

For 90 minutes Koll’s poetic references covered all matters concerning the domestic economy, his operatic presentation style dancing effortlessly over monetary indicators to fiscal policy.

His message painted a montage of optimism driven by sector growth and the technological advances we can expect from the Japanese economic juggernaut moving forward.

Organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Kansai Business Programs Committee, the presentation was the 15th event held by leader Stephen Zurcher and his committee in 2015, a record-breaking year in terms of events.

Among the voluminous topics Koll covered, five pillars of the pro-Japan movement lingered in the mind well after the presentation had concluded.

1. The first is regime certainty and a strong pro-business environment. As Koll illustrated with his deck of sharply designed slides, Abenomics’ philosophical approach to business has started to yield fruit. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration set to retain power, consistency in leadership and policy is expected to pay dividends in the form of higher market confidence and expectations.

2. Japan continues to make strides in “unifying the rivalry with China.” In doing so, it has driven partnerships, collaboration, and synergistic economic growth with nations in Asia and beyond. Booming Chinese exports to the United States, soaring manufacturing orders globally, and a growing Chinese middle class are bringing the realities of regional competition home to Japan.

3. Japan is witnessing a colossal structural savings deficit as a growing number of Japanese are spending more than they are saving, which is driving consumer growth and relaxing tension on the usually prudent, savings-driven domestic market. High corporate cash balances and Japan’s low payout ratios indicate potential for continued dividend growth. Japan is beginning to witness a reshaping of a new, easy-spending middle class.

4. A mass of highly skilled university graduates in Japan face a cacophony of opportunities in today’s bountiful job market, as compared to previous generations’ job-hunting challenges. However, where much is given, much is expected. These same graduates face an almighty task to support the ever-increasing retirement populace, who will require healthcare (Alzheimer’s- and dementia-care are two of the most labor- and drug-intensive therapeutic areas) and assisted aging-care well into the next two generations.

5. Japan is “cheap.” An inexpensive labor market plus the low cost of borrowing remain key drivers in this equation. Preserving a competitive level for investment and Japanese prosperity remain at the forefront of the Abenomics agenda.

As the event came to a rapturous close, Koll offered some suggestions regarding what we can expect in 2016: perhaps Japan will pursue early cuts in corporate taxes; or maybe the nation will try to finally secure a cheap and stable supply of energy; and how about the notion that Japan could promote the next generation of technology, and in doing so, expand tax support for research and development?

The audience grasped onto two predictions in particular: a more active labor market focused not just on including women, but also dynamic young people, the elderly, and the emerging non-Japanese.

And second, who could resist Koll’s crystal-ball pick that the Japanese national Abdul Hakim Sami Brown would win gold at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro? Now that would be something.

The Kansai Business Programs Committee presentation was held at Eli Lilly Japan K.K.

The Kansai Business Programs Committee presentation was held at Eli Lilly Japan K.K.

Matthew Winfield is marketing director at Eli Lilly and Company and a vice-chair of the ACCJ Kansai Business Programs Committee.