#4 China’s crackdown (April 16th, 2011)

#4 China’s crackdown (April 16th, 2011 Full edition)
April 24, 2011 (SUN) 10:00~12:00
At SHINJUKU Nomura building

Articles we discussed:
[US] [The deficit] Rival visions
[Business][Retailing in India] Send for supermarketers
[Finance & Economics][Colombia] Inflows, outperforming
[Science & Tech] [The science of justice] I think it’s time we broke for lunch…
[Leaders] China’s crackdown
[EU] [Italy and north Africa] Take my migrants, please

   This weekend we changed the place from the east to the west side of Shinjuku. Mr. Yamagata was absent because of overslept. So we two discussed about 4 articles and commented two articles that Mr. Yamagata presented beforehand.

   The First article “Rival visions” is about conflict between two parties on US deficit. Even though this topic is unfamiliar for both of us, we could talk about the issue because Mr. Ono prepared summary in Japanese. Obama said that the US planed to decrease 4 trillion dollars of their budget by 2020. We focused on details of the account and discussed about the possibility. 4 trillion deficits is planned to decrease by increasing tax from rich citizen (about 1 trillion), decreasing budget (about 2 trillion) and decreasing interest payment as a result (about 1 trillion). The big difference between two parties is a viewpoint at a medical insurance system. Obama said it’s possible to hold down the medical cost continuing his reform but Republicans do not think so. We concluded (1) a medical system and a national budget are two sides of the same coin and (2) lessons of the US can apply to Japan’s case.

   Secondly, we moved to “Send for supermarketers” from business. The opinion of this article is clear: India should open up their undeveloped retailing industry to foreign supermarket. This is so typical opinion of the Economist. The article presents the current retailing situation in India and insists why should they open up their industry by showing various merits of free market. We mainly discussed about dark side of open up domestic market to foreign capital. We both agreed the merit but Ogawa stood to the side of small stores (called Kirana shops) and Ono was on the side of economist and debated for a while. Ogawa showed a photo of an Indian guy with a big smile on his face in a typical Kirana shop and insisted that even if they can gain much money from big supermarket, they will be unhappy because supermarket will make their job change from the owner of Kirana shop to a floor cleaner. Ono opposed by showing his opinion that there are a lot of consumers who can gain benefits of open up such as the people who want cheaper and better products of foreign makers. This kind of debate is so interesting because the point at issue becomes clear.

   The third interesting article “I think it’s time we broke for lunch” is from Science and Technology section. This is the first time we focused on this section. The article shows a good example that illustrates human imperfectability related to decision-making. We talked about other examples like this and the idea of putting decision-making process into the hand of supercomputer calculation. Possible problem would be that the person who has a responsibility becomes ambiguous when a computer holds all decision. We discussed the problem by using example of automatic car driving.

   Lastly, we followed Colombia’s financial policy. The article “Inflows, outperforming” is one of a series of “Petri-dish ecomomies” Petri dish is a dish used for the culture of microorganism. From world economy they cut down one country and analyze it as a science experiment. Colombia is one of rising economies such as Brazil and China. These emerging countries confront the same kind of issue: how to control boosting economy. This article shows Colombia’s case. Colombia manages their rising economy by using capital-inflows controls with more weight on fiscal reforms and less control. We picked up ”The Reformation” which is about current inflows of capitals to the emerging countries last week so this time is more focused on the same issue focusing on the case of one country.

   The café we gathered this week was so stylish and comfortable but from 11 o’clock the Italian restaurant that shares the tables with the café opens so we had to move to another place to sit. We ate lunch at the top of the building. The view from there is so nice and the menu is reasonable.


#3 70 or bust! (April 9th, 2011)

#3  70 or bust! (April 9th, 2011 Full edition)
April 17, 2011 (SUN) 10:00~12:00

Articles we discussed
[Leaders] [Portugal] The third bail-out
[Finance & Economics] [Portugal seeks help] And there were three
[Briefing] [The north Caucasus] Islam inflamed
[Business][E-commerce and data security] The phishers’ big catch
[Finance & Economics] [Economic focus] The reformation

   This week we discussed Portugal, the north Caucasus, data security and capital controls of emerging countries. I thought Economic and Financial articles are good for this study group because all of three have jobs related to the topic and our future specialty would be finance and economics. International political issues are of course interesting and worthy of reading but no more than liberal arts.

   The first article ”Third bail-out” is about Portugal’s rescue loan from EU addressed by the prime minister on April 6th. “Bailout” means an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse. After Greece and Ireland, Portugal is the third country that receives this bailout from EU. The article mentions Portugal’s poor industry compared to Asian emerging countries such as China. We discussed mainly on the possibility if the bail out to the next country, Spain. The second article “And then there were three” is also about Europe’s debt crisis. Mr. Ono said the title comes from a name of a rock song but we didn’t know the artist. We discussed different types of the crisis between these three and Japan focusing on an international current balance.

   The second topic of this week is about the current situation of the north Caucasus. “From Moscow to Mecca” shows the rise of Islamic groups in this region and the conflict between Kremlin and local people. A standpoint of the Economist is clear; they are on the side of Democracy not Empire. What I interested most is that there are conflicts between Muslims (Sufis v Salafis). We discussed why Kremlin declines the independence of these republics and we realize the geographical importance of the north Caucasus, which is the gas pipelines to Europe from Caspian Sea.

   Thirdly we read a short article “The Phisher’s big catch” from business. We discussed and shared each anxiety about the security of individual information. The credit information such as credit number and password is difficult to phish as this article says but we usually use one e-mail address and one password to use various Internet services so if one service company carelessly were phished by someone, the effects would be huge.

   Lastly, we discussed about the article ”The Reformation” from Economics and Finance section, which is about current inflows of capitals to the emerging countries. The ironical keyword is international monetary tsunami from the mouth of Brazils executive director at the fund. As the title suggests, some emerging countries that are troubled with the flood of capital decided to reform their capital control policy more strictly. Mr. Ono introduced us about trilemma on the international finance. We have to choose two of three, which are (1) independent monetary policy (2) free capital inflow and outflow (3) well-balanced exchange rate. Japan chooses (1)(3), EU chooses (2)(3) and China and emerging countries choose (1)(3) We discussed Japan’s strategy of choosing (1)(3) is good or not.

   This weekend we did this study group in Shinjuku. The air is cool but sunshine was so warm so we talked outside of the starbucks café in Southern terrace place. Ono bought Kindle last week so we chatted how to install the Economist articles on Kindle. The Lunch was stakes and a homburg in Isetan. I went Shinjuku by bike. It was so pleasant.


pray for Japan





#2 Islam and the Arab Revolutions (April 2nd, 2011)

#2 Islam and the Arab Revolutions (April 2nd, 2011 Full edition)
April 10, 2011 (SUN) 10:30~13:30

Articles we discussed
[Leaders] Green Revolution
[US] Recycled
[Business] Broken Links
[Finance & Economics] Liquidity and Lottery Ticket
[Finance & Economics] Cash Machines

   This week we discussed 3 main topics: Investment approach, Global supply chain, German Politics. The difference from last week is that we focused more on financial articles and we first picked up a political issue of the other country (Germany).

   First we focused on “Liquidity and Lottery Tickets” from Finance and economic section. This article says investors have two kinds of tendency when they invest their money to certain assets. One can be called as Lottery tickets preference. Like a person who occasionally bet on horse races and overpay 100-1 outsiders, investors tend to demand higher-volatility but lower long return assets. The other is Liquidity preference that we prefer cash rather than long-term bonds if expected return is the same level. The article says because of these tendencies we humans have, the markets do not work as financial models suggest and we can see these anomalies of this kind for example in carry trade.

   Next we moved to “Cash Machine” from finance and “Broken Links” from business. These are different issues but I thought that they are related with each other. First article emphasis on the importance of service industries in economical analysis mentioning that the high share of GDP that comes from services. We discussed how important manufacturing is in developed countries such as Japan. Mr. Ono said it’s not so important nowadays as the article mentioned. I objected to his insistence mentioning that most of the services, which have a high share of GDP, are accompanied with manufacturing. So I insisted manufacturing is a key industry even if the share of itself is not so much compare to services. “Broken Links” is the article that mentions challenging of global supply chains that manufacturing in all over the world is facing on now. If global manufacturers avoid Japan when they make productions, what will happen to Japan? Not only manufacturing itself but also accompanying services such as delivery would be damaged heavily.

   Lastly we picked up the political issues from Germany. I myself don’t know so much about German politics but Mr. Yamagata studied when he was in graduate school so he taught us about it. The title of this article “A Green Revolution” is from the name of a political party “The Greens”. German Parties have their unique colors; Black, Red, Green, Yellow and Red again. We followed stances of these parties and corporations with each other.

   This week, Mr. Yamagata brought his new Kindle with him. It was so cool so I wanted to get mine from Amazon.com website. (not yet done) Cherry blossoms were at their best and Sakuragaoka in Shibuya was tinged with Sakura pink.


#1 Where does this ends? (March 26th, 2011)

奇しくも今号のカバータイトルは "Where does this end?"

The Economist Study Group
#1 Where does this ends? (March 26th, 2011 Full edition)
April 3, 2011 (SUN) 15:00~17:00

Articles we discussed
[Leaders] Another year of living dangerously
[Briefing] When the steam clears
[United States] On a losing streak
[Asia] Come back in ten years
[Business] Peculiar people
[Finance and Economics] Fat-tail attraction

   The style of this discussion group is (1) Pick up 2 articles each others (2) Share the articles early of the week (3) In the end of this week, have a meeting in a café, share opinions and discuss. This time, only one of us prepared his resume but we conclude everyone should prepare it next time.

   The main topic of this week’s discussion is the disastrous earthquake and nuclear power plant of Japan. This topic is the most important and focusing topic for the people all over the world and we as Japanese should tackle and engage to solve the problems. This was the first time for us to do the discussion like this but not confused as I imagined because the members get used to this kind of academic topics. We talked and discussed as we wanted, but next time I want to do the discussion more systematically or formally to make it more effective.

   There are several Renoir café in Shibuya. At first I went to a café in front of Tokyu Hands but two others was in a café in Sakuragaoka so I have to go back to the station for 10 min. Renoir is comfortable space for chatting with friends but it is smoking available so for groups of non-smoker such as ours it is not so good place to discuss in.

The Economist Study Group

4月からThe Economist の勉強会を始めた。


(1)The Economist誌の購読を習慣化する。
Peer Pressureという言葉がある。「仲間のプレッシャー」ということだが、今回これをうまく活用していきたい。いままで何度もこの雑誌を読もうと図書館でトライしたかわからない。ただそのときは、独りだけの行動に終始していつもなんとなくで終わってしまっていた。少しハードルが高いことに挑戦するときは、やはり仲間がいると心強い。仲間がいるとあきらめたりせず、挫折しかけてもなんとかしようと思うものだ。


なぜこのようなことをするのかというと、単純な知的好奇心ということにつきると思う。確かに、英語力の向上と行った実務面での利点もあるのだけれど、それよりもまず知的刺激にあふれたThe Economist誌の記事を丹念に読みたい、そして仲間と語り合い意見を聞きたいということがまず来る。「真面目」要素満載ではあるが「遊び」として楽しんでいこうと思っている。