Japan preparing $120bn stimulus package to bolster fragile economy

Japan’s economic growth slumped to its weakest in a year in the third quarter. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Japan preparing $120bn stimulus package to bolster fragile economy

  • The package would come to around $120 billion), but that would rise to $230 billion when private-sector and other spending are included
  • The government was considering putting together a large-scale stimulus package with fiscal spending exceeding $92 billion

TOKYO: Japan is preparing an economic stimulus package worth $120 billion to support fragile growth, two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday, and complicating government efforts to fix public finances.
The spending would be earmarked in a supplementary budget for this fiscal year to next March and an annual budget for the coming fiscal year from April. Both budgets will be compiled later this month, the sources told Reuters, declining to be identified because the package has not been finalized.
The package would come to around 13 trillion yen ($120 billion), but that would rise to 25 trillion yen ($230 billion) when private-sector and other spending are included.
The Nikkei business daily reported on the weekend that the government was considering putting together a large-scale stimulus package with fiscal spending exceeding $92 billion.
Japan’s economic growth slumped to its weakest in a year in the third quarter as soft global demand and the Sino-US trade war hit exports, stoking fears of a recession. Some analysts also worry that a sales tax hike to 10% in October could cool private consumption which has helped cushion weak exports.
Such spending could strain Japan’s coffers — the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden, which tops more than twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.
Despite the headline size of the stimulus, actual spending would be smaller in the current fiscal year, and economists are not expecting much of a boost.
“We expect this fiscal year’s extra budget to total around 3-4 trillion yen. We should not expect it to substantially push up the GDP growth rate,” said Takuya Hoshino, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
The 13 trillion yen includes more than 3 trillion yen from fiscal investment and loan programs, as the heavily indebted government seeks to take advantage of low borrowing costs under the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy.
Direct government spending is expected to reach around 7-8 trillion yen, they said.
The government will mobilize construction bonds, unused money from the previous fiscal year’s budget and fiscal investment and loan programs to secure necessary funding, the Nikkei reported on Tuesday.
The spending package won’t involve deficit-covering bond issuance, the Nikkei added.
A final decision on the package could be made as early as Thursday.


A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

Updated 05 December 2019

A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

  • Products used by WashyWash are non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral
  • Amman-based laundry service aims to relocate to a larger facility in mid-2020

AMMAN: A persistent sinus problem prompted a Jordanian entrepreneur to launch an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that could help end the widespread use of a dangerous chemical.

“Dry cleaning” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not really dry. It is true that no water is involved in the process, but the main cleaning agent is perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that experts consider likely to cause cancer, as well as brain and nervous system damage.

Kamel Almani, 33, knew little of these dangers when he began suffering from sinus irritation while working as regional sales director at Eon Aligner, a medical equipment startup he co-founded.

The problem would disappear when he went on vacation, so he assumed it was stress related.

However, when Mazen Darwish, a chemical engineer, revealed he wanted to start an eco-laundry and warned about toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning, Almani had an epiphany.

“He began to tell me how PERC affects the respiratory system, and I suddenly realized that it was the suits I wore for work — and which I would get dry cleaned — that were the cause of my sinus problems,” said Almani, co-founder of Amman-based WashyWash.

“That was the eureka moment. We immediately wanted to launch the business.”

WashyWash began operations in early 2018 with five staff, including the three co-founders: Almani, Darwish and Kayed Qunibi. The business now has 19 employees and became cash flow-positive in July this year.

“We’re very happy to achieve that in under two years,” Almani said.

The service uses EcoClean products that are certified as toxin-free, are biodegradable and cause no air, water or soil pollution.

Customers place orders through an app built in-house by the company’s technology team.

WashyWash collects customers’ dirty clothes, and cleans, irons and returns them. Services range from the standard wash-and-fold to specialized dry cleaning for garments and cleaning of carpets, curtains, duvets and leather goods.

“For wet cleaning, we use environmentally friendly detergents that are biodegradable, so the wastewater doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals,” Almani said.

For dry cleaning, WashyWash uses a modified hydrocarbon manufactured by Germany’s Seitz, whose product is non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral.

A specialized company collects the waste and disposes of it safely.

The company has big ambitions, planning to expand its domestic operations and go international. Its Amman site can process about 1,000 items daily, but WashyWash will relocate to larger premises in mid-2020, which should treble its capacity.

“We’ve built a front-end app, a back-end system and a driver app along with a full facility management system. We plan to franchise that and have received interest from many countries,” Almani said.

“People visiting Amman used our service, loved it, and wanted an opportunity to launch in their countries.”

WashyWash has received financial backing from angel investors and is targeting major European cities initially.

“An eco-friendly, on-demand dry-cleaning app isn’t available worldwide, so good markets might be London, Paris or Frankfurt,” Almani said.

 

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian
and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.