#2-7 How to save the euro [Sep 17th 2011]

#2-7 How to save the euro [Sep 17th 2011]
Sep 25th 2011 10:00-12:00 Marunouchi Renoir
Iino, Yamagata, Shimada, Saito,

Articles discussed this week
[Leaders] How to save the euro
[Leaders][American health care in limbo] Justice delayed
[Briefing][The cost of breaking up] After the fall
[Economics & Finance] [Economic focus] Prices or jobs

   I have joined this study group from the start without absent but I was absent for the first time on this week. Iino was the host of this week and Yamagata came back to Tokyo so he joined us again. Saito invited his friend as a guest, who is a bio chemical major. It is impressive for me that this study group continues to be held without Ono and me because one of the aims we discussed in April was systematization. We have tried to prepare the process of decision of dates, places and articles we discuss aiming at every member being a host of discussion. We made a website to show the process of our discussion and a facebook group to make a communication among members and a google spreadsheet to gather participation and articles we discuss. There is much room for improvement of management of our group so we are going to revision the spreadsheet to keep the record of our discussions.


#2-6 The quest for jobs [Sep 10th 2011]

#2-6 The quest for jobs [Sep 10th 2011]
Sep 18, 2011 10:00-12:00 Gaienmae Dean & Deluca Aoyama
Members: Ogawa, Ono, Tomozawa, Kurasawa, Saito and Goto

Article we discussed:
[Leaders] The quest for jobs
[Special report] The great mismatch
[Leaders] The new special relationship
[Middle East and Africa][Israel and Turkey] Can it get worse?

    A special guest came to join this week. Mr. Goto, who is elder than us, found our website weeks before and contacted us to join our group. He already read the newspaper for several years so he knew much about its style and opinion. He has joined another economist readers’ group held in Gotanda several times so he advised us about the management of our group comparing characteristics of the two groups. His advice was so helpful so we are going to improve our discussion based on his advice.

    We have a fewer articles this week so we could discuss each topic taking much time. But sometimes our discussion got lost because each of us spoke what we wanted. We should be aware what we are discussing now and a facilitator should control the discussion to find the way to our conclusion.

    The first topic we discussed about was joblessness of the West. The Economist on this week had a special report about the topic. Our discussion was based on two articles, one from Leaders and another from special report. “The quest for job” from Leaders makes several proposals that politicians should do for reducing high unemployment levels of the West. The immediately priority should be supporting demand. To strike a bargain with the bond market in medium term and to stimulate the economy in various ways in short term are what they are expected. The Economist also insists demand side policies are also important. It suggests that labor market policies themselves can make huge difference because the new technology and globalization change demand for skills. A focal point of our discussion was an evaluation of Obama’s “Green New Deal” as a demand stimulus policy.

    The next article, “The great mismatch” explains about high unemployment rate focusing on a key word, “a natural rate of unemployment”. The rate stays on a high level compared to a decade ago because of globalization and the new technology. Saito made his discussion paper for the first time and he putted several referendums on his paper. It was helpful for the discussion. We had better follow his example.

    As an impressive cover picture of a tiger and a bulldog facing each other shows, the second topic we discussed was about emerging-market firms and Britain. Around 4 centuries ago, British capital went to the East but now capital is flowing the other direction. Britain is attractive for firms in emerging countries for four reasons; relatively open economy, expertise, brand and easy access to the city of London. We mainly discussed the case of Japan. Japan is relatively closed economy for immigrant workers and foreign capital. But attractiveness of Japan is similar to Britain especially expertise and brand. An interesting episode Kurasawa showed us is that “Made in Japan” is valuable in cosmetics industry because it guarantees qualities of products. For such reason, they gather materials from over the world and produce cosmetics in Japan. This episode is a unique hint for the future industry of Japan.

    Lastly Tomozawa picked up Israel and Turkey issues. He said he paid attention to Turkey because of its geopolitical importance. We didn’t know relations between Israel and Turkey have worsened or even didn’t imagine there have been relations between the two countries. So his choice was impressive for us. W discussed mainly the geopolitical and economical position of Turkey. Turkey is located in the Middle East of Asia but also on the edge of Europe being close to Russia. Securities of this region do not only related to this region but also effect over the world broadly. The existence of NATO get the relations more complicated. 

    At the end of the discussion, we shared ideas to improve our discussion. First, we should read a lot. The quality of output comes from the quantity of input. Second, put discussion topic first. We already read the articles before gathering, so we should more focus on a discussion itself than summarizing it. Thirdly, we had better state why do we pick up the articles. This was a hot sunny day and there was a festival in Gaienmae. From the next day the climate changed to dramatically cool. So the day was the last day of this summer.


#2-5 Ten years on [Sep 3rd 2011]

#2-5 Ten years on [Sep 3rd 2011]
Sep 11th, 2011 Shinjuku Paul Bassett
Members: Iino, Ono, Ogawa, Ido and Kurasawa

Articles we discussed:
[Leaders][Infrastructure project] The great train robbery
[Business][Doing business in Brazil] Rio or Sao Paulo?
[Business][Schumpeter] Angst for educated
[Britain][Food prices and mergers] Hard to swallow

    Ten years have passed since the tragic terrorist attack hit NY and six months since the disastrous earthquake hit the north east of Japan. We gathered in Shinjuku on this memorable day. Kurasawa, who is a friend of Iino came to join us for the first time. She is working for a cosmetic company and lives in Gotenba in which her company’s factory is located. She comes back to Tokyo every weekend so she can join us. We discussed on four articles and talked on our jobs. I am going to review our discussion briefly.

    The first article picked up by Iino was “The great train robbery” from Leaders section. This article focused mainly on Britain’s high-speed train project, which connects London and northern Britain in a few hours. This newspaper’s opinion is presented clearly on its topic sentence; ”High-speed rail lines rarely pay their way. Britain’s government should ditch its plan to build one.” They opposed to the project. We mainly discussed whether it is only the case of Britain or also applicable to any cases we have heard over the world. This topic was sensitive and interesting for us Japanese because Japan puts up infrastructure exportation as a growth strategy and a high-speed railway is one of the most valuable strategic assets.

    Secondly, we focused on Brazil. The article “Rio or Sao Paulo?” showed us that Rio de janeiro became to be attractive for business for the first time in decades comparing with a well known business city, Sao Paulo. I have been to Sao Paulo and met several Japanese Brazilian managers. They all have a positive outlook on their country so I remember I was impressed from their attitudes. Such brightness we mainly discussed about. It looks similar to the atmosphere of Japan in 1960’s. Ono said it comes from economic growth. This was simple and persuasive answer but we have to keep in mind that brightness cast shadow at the same time. We should look at not only bright side but also dark side of the country.

    Third article was close to us because we all are university graduates and working on “white color“ jobs for several years. The number of people who are educated is growing especially in developing countries. They compete with Europe’s or American educated people who are working at medical, legal and finance companies. The educated also suffer from IT development. Professional tasks easily can be replaced by software especially data processing tasks. This kind of topic is picked up several times on this newspaper. Our discussion made us to reconsider the values of our jobs.

    The last article picked up by Ido is about food prices and mergers in Britain. She is working at Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries so she is interested on this issue. This topic is related to the issue of competition and fairness in a market. Mergers make a monopoly and intervene fair competition among players. This article considers the reason of food price inflation in Britain. The main two possible causes are an oligopoly and imported inflation. We discussed right and wrong an oligopoly market and price controllers of the market.

    After the discussion we ate lunch at the restaurant on the top of the nearest building. The view from there was splendid and the place was comfortable to eat together. We talked about our daily life and work. What we enjoyed most was the talk of love affairs. 


#2-4 Going, going... [Aug 27th 2011]

#2-4 Going, going... [Aug 27th 2011]
4th Sep, 2011 Marunouchi DEAN DELICA
Ono, Ogawa, Iino, Nagao, Tahara, Tomozawa, Sotani, Kanno, Shimada and Saito. 
10 people gathered this week.

Articles we discussed:
[Leaders][Immigration] Let them come
[Briefing][Libya] The birth of free Libya
[Asia][Politics in Japan] Sixth time lucky?
[Middle East and Africa] www.africa.slow
[International] Moving out, on and back
[Finance & Economics][Alternative indicators] Behind the bald figures
[Finance & Economics][Economic focus] Changing target

     We gathered at Marunouchi on this week for the first time. Marunouchi is the most refined business district in Tokyo on weekdays and also fashionable place especially on weekend. People gather there to eat fine meals, go shopping, enjoy arts and do exercises. We had two new comers on this week’s study group. Kanno who is working for a foreign-affiliated financial firm, found our study group by net surfing. He searched a group of reading the economist and checked over 20 websites and finally reached our website. Saito is a friend of Ogawa and Shimada. We joined a student organization named AIESEC during our college life. He is good at English because he went to do an internship in India for a year.

    We picked up and discussed 7 articles on 6 topics. Follow up our discussion briefly. First, we discussed two articles about a new trend of immigration. In the economic crisis like we are suffering right now, emigration declines because economic decline takes their jobs. The opinion of the article is clear on its title, “Let them come”. They insist that even economic crisis continues to burden their nation’s employment, immigrants bring skills, energies, ideas and willingness to work that boost productivity and encourage innovation. Especially because immigration becomes temporary and there is global competition from the East for them, the article insist that the West should be more welcoming to migrants. We first brought international students’ case we experienced in our life one by one. But that’s not a serious case because they don’t take many jobs from local people but bring merits much more. So we shifted to discuss the matter of workers.

     The next topic politics in Japan was written before Noda was elected as a prime minister. What were interesting on this article were phrases for introducing candidates of the election. Mr. Maehara was called a train spotter. Mr. Kaieda was a cabinet minister who burst into tears in parliament. Mr. Noda was somebody who exonerates war criminals. We enjoyed such ironical ideas.

     Then, we changed a topic and discussed the issue of African poor Internet access reading the example of Sierra Leone. Our discussion tends to incline to Japan’s case because we are Japanese but I think we should focus on foreign issues much more. To focus on foreign issues and discuss is hard to do because we should imagine things that have nothing to do with us.

     Lastly, we picked up two articles from Finance & Economics section. “Behind the bald figures” is a humorous article aiming to find another BicMac index. Many unreliable but innovative ideas that indicate economic outlook are presented on the article. “Changing target” is a more serious article focusing on the policy of a central bank. They set inflation target on their monetary policy. The article presents the idea of changing the target to nominal GDP and verifies it. They conclude the idea is questionable but such a challenging idea is interesting to know.

     The café we gathered this week opens at 10 am so some of us waited outside in a few minutes. Inside the café was comfortable and relaxing. We ate lunch together in Marubill near from the café. Most of us are strangers each other so we introduced ourselves during lunch. My aim is to manage this study group properly and attract enthusiastic people to make a positive impact on a society.