How Argentina and Japan continue to confound macroeconomists

MANY PEOPLE make fun of macroeconomics. But any theory that must explain both Argentina and Japan deserves sympathy. Why, in particular, is inflation so stubbornly high in one and low in the other? In Argentina, consumer prices were 50% higher in February than a year earlier, the fastest increase since 1991. In Japan over the same period, inflation was less than 0.2%, equalling the lowest rate since 2016.

The inertia in both countries is puzzling. Inflation has stayed low in Japan despite a drum-tight labour market (unemployment has remained at 2.5% or below for over a year) and high in Argentina despite a fast-shrinking economy: its GDP contracted by more than 6% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The two countries, of course, have long mystified economists. In 1950 Argentina’s GDP per person was three times that of Japan, according to the Maddison Project database. The Eva Perón charitable foundation, run by the president’s wife, shipped 100 tonnes of relief supplies to the war-battered Japanese. Thousands of Japanese migrated in the opposite direction, creating a population of 23,000 Nipo-Argentinos by the end of the 1960s.

But the two countries’ economic paths went on to cross decisively. Japan’s GDP per person eclipsed Argentina’s around 1970 and is now about twice as high, measured at purchasing-...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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