2014 Theme
“Year of Challenge”

Pooling Our Strength

In 2014 the consumption tax rate will be raised to 8%. Naturally there is going to be a temporary lull in personal consumption from April, so the period until the beginning of summer will require close attention. Since the government will probably adopt active economic-stimulus policies, though, such indicators as wages, jobs, and consumption will move upward and have the effect of mollifying the consumer mind. Nevertheless, the consumption tax impacts every nook and cranny of living, so a cooling off of the real economy will be inevitable to an extent.

There will be a surge of last-minute demand from January to March, but the reaction in April and May, I expect, will be quite severe. From June, however, signs of mitigation will begin to emerge, and I think the summer sales battle will be brisk. After that, the autumn sales battle will be livelier than it has been for some time, so for a lot of companies the New Year’s sake in 2015 is going to taste good. Of course, these are only my personal projections. I wonder what readers think.

Then in April 2015 the consumption tax rate will be further raised to 10%. Coupled with the further advance of aging and the low birthrate, this increase will add weight to the list of negative factors. Nevertheless, backed by expectations relating to the Tokyo Olympics, I expect the economy to follow an upward curve. That is to say, the further 2% hike in the consumption tax rate will be endured, and indeed people will feel relief that the 10% threshold has been reached. If the upward economic curve is able to absorb that hike and push up the real economy, I foresee us entering a period of stability.

I think the Tokyo Olympics are extremely important. A consumption tax rate of 10% without the premise of the Olympics would be alarming. But now it has been decided that Tokyo will host the event in 2020, just five years after the hike in 2015. In various senses, the Tokyo Olympics are a positive factor.

I have my sights set on the year 2020 and the two odd-numbered years of 2019 and 2021 around it. In various ways, I think these three years are going to be a busy period.

Therefore, as we approach 2014, it is important for us to have medium- and long-term strategies looking ahead to 2021. After that, the year 2022 will likely herald a difficult phase in which the negative effects of aging and the low birthrate reach a peak; they will have a considerable economic impact as well. The balance of power in the world is also going to change. Since we are able to anticipate these developments, companies must respond by building sturdy structures and drafting medium- and long-term plans.

In terms of structure, it is urgent for companies to make a shift so that employees now in their 30s and 40s can play an active role. We will be entering an age in which vertical top-down organizations no longer pass muster. If a generational change is not made now, after five years the negative factors are going to expand, and inert organizations will sink. It is important to transfer powers from the conventional vertically structured organization and build a new organization. If companies can carry out such reforms and utilize career-minded employees who do not have any vested interests, I believe that they can establish dynamic structures.

A decade passes in an instant. The coming 10 years are going to feel more like five or six years. So we must get moving. The year 2014 will be one in which we must promote robust growth strategies for the future. For that purpose, I think it is important for us all in the industry to pool our strength.