Cash dependence reveals paradox of Japanese society

Cash dependence reveals paradox of Japanese society
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Most small shops in Japan — a country with over 200,000 ATMs — only take cash to avoid high transaction costs. (AFP)
Cash dependence reveals paradox of Japanese society
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A notice for payment via PayPay outside a Koguma restaurant in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 28 October 2019

Cash dependence reveals paradox of Japanese society

Cash dependence reveals paradox of Japanese society
  • YouGov pan-#Arab study finds high awareness of relative size of #Japan's economy
  • Continued reliance on cash said to reflect #Japan's combination of tradition and modernity

LONDON: Many Arabs have an accurate view of the size of Japan’s economy, a recent poll by Arab
News and YouGov has discovered, but many also underestimate the country’s reliance on cash, revealing the paradox that lies at the root of that reliance.
The wide-ranging poll, which asked residents across the MENA region for their views on a host of questions related to Japan, found that awareness of the size of Japan’s economy — the world’s third-largest — was generally high, with 63 percent of respondents identifying it as being in the top five globally.
Awareness is higher among the older generation, with 68 percent of those over the age of 40 placing the country’s economy in the top five, compared to 58 percent of those aged 16 to 24.
Interestingly, the poll’s findings suggest that Arabs who have visited Japan are more likely to misjudge the size of the country’s economy. Only 48 percent of respondents who had previously been to Japan — four percent of all those surveyed — identified the country as having one of the world’s five largest economies.
The poll found that 67 percent of respondents correctly identified Japan as a member of the G20, but only 59 percent recognized Japan as a member of the G7 — a smaller group of the world’s largest economies.
In the latter case, there was a strong divergence between age groups, with 69 percent of those aged over 40 placing Japan in the G7 compared to only 48 percent of those aged 16 to 24.
However, by far the greatest misconception that Arabs have about Japan’s economy is its reliance on cash. Cash is still the most common form of payment in Japan, accounting for four out of every five purchases, but the majority of Arabs did not know this — with only 10 percent of the poll’s respondents identifying cash as the most common form of payment in Japan. By contrast, 46 percent of respondents said credit cards were the prevalent form of payment, and more thought that cryptocurrency was most common — 12 percent — than chose cash.
In many ways, these results are unsurprising. As Anne Beade wrote recently in the Japan Times, the continued dominance of cash payments in Japan sits oddly with its “reputation as a futuristic and innovative nation,” especially given the speed with which other technologically advanced countries have adapted to the cashless society. As Beade notes, 90 percent of transactions in South Korea are now digital.
But Japan’s reliance on cash is also typical of one of the country’s central paradoxes — its combination of tradition and modernity. The reasons for the country’s continued reliance on cash are manifold — from Japan’s low crime rates to the ready availability of ATM machines. But, as Beade makes clear, a significant factor is Japan’s aging population, who are slow to adapt to change. According to data from the CIA World Factbook, almost a third of Japan’s population is over the age of 65. In Saudi Arabia, that figure is just 3.32 percent.
If Japan’s continued dependence on cash illustrates the tension that can exist between its aging population and its futuristic aspects, then there are also examples of the two forming a more harmonious relationship. At the Dubai World Congress for Self-Driving Transport on October 15, Toyota announced its intention to transform into a mobility company with an example of how new technology could help solve the challenges of Japan’s aging population.
Speaking of the island of Hokkaido, in the north of Japan, where railway services catering tothe island’s aging population have shut down, Madali Khalesi, Vice President of Automated Driving at the Toyota Research Institute for Automated Driving Development, advanced self-driving cars as a solution.
“As time goes on you become more elderly, you are feeling less comfortable to drive your own vehicle, and in Japan in many cases, you have to hand in your driving licence,” he said.
“So think about it: You don’t have a mode of transportation publicly, you can’t drive a vehicle, (but that) does not mean something has to give, right? And we believe the technology at least can help support that change.”
Arabs’ misconceptions about Japan’s relationship with cash are widespread but understandable, given the nation’s hi-tech image. But, in bringing to the fore these issues of tradition and modernity, such misconceptions unintentionally shine a light on one of Japan’s most beguiling paradoxes.


US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing
Updated 4 min 22 sec ago

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing
WASHINGTON: The American Petroleum Institute (API) is weighing endorsing a price on carbon emissions, a major shift after long resisting mandatory government climate policies, a source familiar with the decision making said.
The API, the main US oil industry lobby group that includes most of the world’s biggest oil companies, is considering carbon pricing “among other policy solutions to reduce emissions and reach the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” the source said, confirming a report about the policy shift by the Wall Street Journal.
The group is confronting its previous resistance to regulatory action on climate change amid a shift in industry strategy on the issue and the new US presidency.
European member Total quit the group because of disagreements over API’s climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations and the Biden administration is pursuing a policy agenda that would shift the United States from fossil fuels.
A draft statement of the policy shift reviewed by the Wall Street Journal said the group does not endorse a specific carbon pricing tool such as a tax on carbon emissions or emissions trading scheme. The source said, however, that the group’s State of American Energy report released in January was supportive of a market-based carbon pricing policy.
The API did not comment on whether or when the group would formally endorse a price on carbon but said it has been working for nearly a year on an industry-wide response to climate change.
“Our efforts are focused on supporting a new US contribution to the global Paris agreement,” said API spokeswoman Megan Bloomgren.
Within API, there has been a widening rift between Europe’s top energy companies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-total-api/frances-total-quits-top-u-s-oil-lobby-in-climate-split-idUSKBN29K1LM, which over the past year accelerated plans to cut emissions and build large renewable energy businesses, and their US rivals Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. that have resisted growing investor pressure to diversify.
Other major industry groups like the USChamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, which includes Chevron, over the last year have endorsed market-based carbon pricing.
Chevron said it has engaged those groups and API “to support well-designed carbon pricing.”
“We support economy-wide carbon pricing as the primary policy tool to address climate change, applied across the broadest possible area to maximize environmental and economic efficiency and effectiveness,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said in an emailed statement.
BP and Shell declined to comment.

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit
Updated 11 min 29 sec ago

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit
  • Emaar Properties, which already owns close to 85 percent of Emaar Malls, will swap 0.51 of its own shares with shareholders of Emaar Malls

DUBAI: Dubai developer Emaar Properties on Tuesday said it was buying out minority shareholders of its shopping centre unit, less than a decade after floating shares in the company.

The all-share deal comes as both businesses have seen profits plunge over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic as fewer overseas visitors travel to Dubai.

Emaar Properties, which already owns close to 85 percent of Emaar Malls, will swap 0.51 of its own shares with shareholders of Emaar Malls, the two companies said.

That values Emaar Malls, which operates Dubai’s largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall, at 24 billion dirhams ($6.53 billion), according to Reuters calculations.

Each Emaar Malls share is valued at 1.85 dirhams in the deal, a 10 percent premium based on its last closing price, Reuters calculated.

Emaar Malls, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Emaar Properties, will continue to develop and operate shopping centres and retail assets, the companies said.

Emaar Properties, roughly 30 percent owned by state fund Investment Corp Dubai, will remain listed on the Dubai stock market.

Emaar Properties last month reported a 58 percent fall in 2020 net profit to 2.62 billion dirhams, while Emaar Malls’ yearly net profit dropped 70 percent to 704 million dirhams.

Emaar Properties raised about $1.6 billion listing Emaar Malls in 2014.


Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’
Updated 03 March 2021

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

DUBAI: Changes in Saudi Arabia in the past five years are just the “tip of the iceberg” of the transformation the Kingdom will experience under the Vision 2030 strategy and beyond, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, said on Tuesday.
“The things we’d like to achieve in 2030 will be our optimal way of starting the next phase, which is what we will do until 2040, or after that to 2050,” Al-Rumayyan told a virtual session of CERAWeek — the “oil man’s Davos” — in Houston, Texas.
“Our society is changing, the people are becoming more receptive to new ideas on how companies should work and how society should function, and even the social contract is changing. If you add all of these together, you will have an idea of what Saudi Arabia, by embracing and implementing Vision 2030, will look like in nine years,” he said.
Al-Rumayyan, who is also chairman of Saudi Aramco, said plans remained in place to sell more shares in the world’s biggest oil company, after the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in history in 2019 when it sold less than 2 percent of its shares.
“From the very beginning we said we would be selling more of the shares owned by the government; once we see market conditions improving, and more appetite from different investment institutions and investors, we will definitely consider selling more shares,” he said.
He also underlined the Kingdom’s ambitions in renewable energy and hydrogen fuels. “Aramco is interested in renewables, believe it or not. It is the largest oil and gas company on the planet, but we are thinking of ourselves as an energy and petrochemical company.”
He told Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer prize-winning oil historian, that PIF would invest $40 billion a year in Saudi Arabia to “stimulate the economy and
create jobs.”
 


Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
  • The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East

Saudi Contractors Authority (SCA) will hold the Future Projects Forum (FPF) virtually during March 22-24.

The FPF will include the participation of more than 37 government and private  entities to present around 1,000 projects with an estimated total value exceeding SR600 billion ($16 billion).

The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East. It also aims to create opportunities for contractors and investors via identifying details of future projects in the contracting sector and knowing the mechanism of qualification and competition.

The forum seeks to develop a wide network of relationships between contractors, investors and interested parties, in addition to creating partnerships between them.

 The number of delivered residential real estate projects increased from SR12.4 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2019 to SR13.9 billion in 2020.


Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
Updated 03 March 2021

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
  • Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the IMF estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism
  • The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year

DUBAI: Bahrain expects to post a deficit of 1.2 billion dinars ($3.20 billion) in 2021, state news agency BNA said, citing the finance ministry.
The oil-producing Gulf state projected a budget of 3.6 billion dinars for 2021 with revenues expected to amount to 2.4 billion dinars, BNA said.
For next year, total expenditure is estimated at 3.57 billion dinars, against total revenues of 2.46 billion dinars, resulting in a slightly lower deficit of 1.1 billion dinars.
Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism.
The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year, BNA said late on Tuesday.
Sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat will double its contributions to government revenues, said the agency, as Bahrain seeks to boost non-oil revenues.
Bahrain has accumulated a large pile of debt since the 2014-2015 oil price shock. In 2018 it received a $10 billion financial aid program from Gulf allies that helped it avoid a credit crunch.
BNA cited Finance and Economy Minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa as saying that the country remains committed to achieving the objectives of the fiscal balance program — a set of fiscal reforms linked to the financial aid.
“This budget makes clear Bahrain’s continued commitment to the Fiscal Balance Program, despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, with core government expenditure remaining under tight control,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Public debt rose to 133% of GDP last year from 102% in 2019, the IMF has said, cautioning that the country needs to reduce government debt once economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis firms up.