A blueprint for Japan’s future success

ACCJ White Paper Cover

Well, generally I stay out of the crosshairs of politics, especially as I can’t vote in Japan as a permanent foreign resident.

But an article I read today in the Wall St. Journal leaves me with a disquieting feeling, and I pass it along to readers: http://on.wsj.com/lwnXqi

The gist of the article is that neither the lackluster Prime Minister Naoto Kan nor the two leading contenders to replace him appear to be talking about genuine reform in Japan—when March 11, as tragic as it was, presents a golden opportunity to enact needed policy change.

Recently I attended a press conference of three experts who discussed a major White Paper: “Charting a New Course for Growth” Recommendations for Japan’s Leaders. These three speakers were Michael J. Alfant, President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Japan and CEO of Fusion Systems, Kyoji Fukao, Professor of Contemporary Economies, Hitotsubashi University, and Nicholas Benes, Governor and Chair, ACCJ Growth Strategy Task Force and Representative Director of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan.

The ACCJ Growth Strategy Task Force (GSTF) was formed in January 2010 and is made up of 70 people of diverse Japanese and other nationalities and backed by 17 financial sponsors. It drew on the findings of the Fukao-Kwon Report of Hitotsubashi and Nihon Universities and the Eberhart-Gucwa Report of Stanford University. The mission of the GSTF is to provide in-depth, independent analysis to inform policy makers and to offer practical recommendations to the government of Japan in key policy areas, to promote long-term, sustainable growth.

You can read the detailed findings of the task force in English or Japanese by downloading the White Paper on the ACCJ site (far left column):


The authors see great opportunities and potential in Japan given its large capital base and savings pool, powerful technology base, and strength of human capital.

Fresh Japanese entrepreneurship is critical to sustainable growth

The key findings of the Fukao-Kwon Report are startling and provide a clue to Japan’s growth potential. In the period 1996-2006, independent Japanese companies lost 3.8 million jobs (the impact of shifting production offshore), whereas foreign companies created nearly 150 thousand jobs and new Japanese companies established after 1996 created nearly 1.2 million jobs. Stimulating and supporting this entrepreneurship is the key to future growth.

The GSTF recommends several initiatives to spur entrepreneurship, as described in the ACCJ White Paper, including:

  • establishing an Office of Entrepreneurship in the Cabinet, reporting directly to the Prime Minister, a step to communicate how vital entrepreneurship is to the nation and celebrate successes
  • using innovation awards to draw positive attention to the role of entrepreneurs in bringing innovation to market
  • reducing regulatory barriers that hinder new market entrants
  • encouraging entrepreneurs from abroad to establish businesses in Japan by increasing ease of use and relaxing the requirements for self-sponsorship visas
  • emphasizing private-sector financing and encouraging market-based equity financing of startups and small businesses
  • creating a bilingual and searchable national database with user-generated uploads for underutilized technology that anyone can access

Other GSTF core recommendations are to promote inward globalization through expanded Foreign Direct Investment and more open immigration policies, utilize tax incentives to encourage startups, and enhance services productivity through deregulation. Many people do not know that currently 80% of Japan’s GDP comes from services and only 20% is from manufacturing. I was one of them.

Leadership is the vital link to the whole blueprint

The GSTF firmly believes that with leadership Japan can:

  • become a vibrant center for entrepreneurship, innovation and finance in Asia
  • generate higher rates of per capital GDP growth
  • stimulate a fast-moving economy that creates exciting job opportunities for younger generations
  • attract needed talent and investment through immigration

What’s vitally needed is the leadership to realize Japan’s full upside potential.

And that is where you enter the picture. Make it happen. Create the future. It is yours for the making.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier