Poll: 81% of Japanese don’t trust government on Fukushima

2011年05月31日 Saidani

Our only question is, after 20 years of economic waste, historic debt, revolving-door prime ministers, and general decline, why anybody trusts the government about anything.  We’ll get into that in a bit.  First, the poll.

A new poll showed Monday that more than 80 percent of Japanese voters do not trust government information about the country’s nuclear crisis.

The poll conducted by Fuji Television Network also found that nearly 85 percent of respondents said the utility that operates the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is dealing with the crisis poorly.

An earthquake and tsunami on March 11 damaged crucial cooling systems at the plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The twin disasters also left more than 24,000 people dead or missing in northeastern Japan.

Eighty-one percent of respondents to the survey said they did not trust government information about the crisis, Fuji TV said. Seventy-eight percent said Prime Minister Naoto Kan lacked leadership in handling the disasters.

Kan is facing calls for his resignation even within his own ruling party. Opposition parties are expected to submit a no-confidence motion against him as early as Thursday.

Kan is likely to survive the motion because his Democratic Party of Japan controls the powerful lower house of parliament. However, some ruling party lawmakers may support the motion to pressure Kan to quit, local media say.

The national poll of eligible voters was conducted by telephone on May 28-29 and had 1,000 responses. No margin of error was given, but a poll of that size would normally have a margin of error of about 4 percentage points. – Nikkei

As everyone knows by now, few governments trust Japan over the nuke issue either.  This poll only gives those politicians who are on the fence about the LDP’s impending no-confidence motion against Kan a reason to vote him out.

Meanwhile, today the government reported that Japan’s industrial output increased 1.0% in April and the Nikkei 255 soared 1.16% by the lunch break.

Japanese industrial output rose a seasonally adjusted 1.0% in April from the previous month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Tuesday, as factory activity bounced back from record falls following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The result was slightly less than the median forecast for a 2.9% rise in a survey of economists by Dow Jones Newswires and Nikkei. The gain came on the back of a recovery in general and electrical machinery output.

Manufacturers polled by the ministry expect their orders to rise 8.0% in May, and climb 7.7% in June.

“The recovery trend, as shown in forecasts, is extremely strong,” said Japan Research Institute chief economist Hidehiko Fujii. “The production in May and June will likely to recover at a high pace that has never been seen before.”

The readings come after industrial output fell a revised 15.5% in March, the sharpest fall on record, as the March 11 disaster damaged many factories in the country’s northeast and disrupted supply chains.

These numbers are not that good, despite the optimistic opinion of the JRI economist.  In fact, it confirms a downturn in the economy if compared to last April, just to show how the government – and the compliant media – pumps up unrealistic hopes in economic expansion.  The other news out today confirms that.

Japan’s unemployment rate rose to 4.7% in April from 4.6% in March for the first deterioration in six months amid the impact from the massive earthquake and tsunami in March, the government said Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted figure remained at a level that the government considers high. The data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications did not factor in the three prefectures severely damaged by the March 11 disaster—Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

Separate data showed the country’s job availability deteriorated for the first time in 17 months, with the ratio of job offers to job seekers dropping to 0.61 in April from 0.63 in March. This means 61 jobs were available for every 100 seekers, said the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The number of jobless people totaled 29.2 million, up 20,000 from the previous month while that of people dismissed from their jobs rose 40,000, with the ministry underlining that the negative fallout from the quake apparently spread outside the prefectures.

Of course, this government rate is flawed as it counts part time and contract work, which, when including the 4.7% unemployed, constitutes nearly 40% of the Japanese workforce that are without full time employment.

The key figure from this report, as it pertains to the health of the economy is the low jobs to job applicant ratio.  It means that there is essentially two people vying for each available job, including part time jobs.  That is not an indication of a healthy economy.

As for the sharp rise in the Nikkei 225 in response to this tepid economic data, one has to look at the participants of the current Japanese equity market.

High-speed trading accounted for 34.1% of all orders on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last month, jumping from 11.7% in January 2010 when the bourse introduced a high-speed trading system.

The Arrowhead system boasts processing speeds 400-600 times faster than its predecessor to accommodate high-speed transactions placed by computer. The TSE also began offering a so-called colocation service, in which high-frequency traders can set up their servers right next to TSE’s trading system so that their orders can be placed instantly.

Before high-speed trading was available, hedge funds and others were dissatisfied because their large orders caused stock prices to fluctuate, leaving them unable to trade stocks at desired prices. This led to the invention of high-frequency trading, in which orders split into smaller chunks are placed instantly. The popularity of high-speed trading has been growing at bourses worldwide.

At the TSE, major brokerages signed up for the colocation service as soon as it was launched, and institutional investors began to conduct high-speed trades through it. The volume of high-speed orders has grown steadily from about 20 million a month at the beginning to 77.83 million in April. High-speed trading hit a record 36.5% of all orders in March, when stock prices tumbled due to the earthquake and tsunami. – Nikkei

High-speed traders are not benign market participants.  They front-run all orders and can determine the direction of the market moves and its intensity.  Who are these high-speed traders?  They are the same banks and financial companies to which the Bank of Japan funnels money with its zero interest rate policy and asset buying programs.  When the BOJ injected its ¥50 trillion to keep the market from collapsing after the March 11 disaster, the money went through these companies, providing them a neat profit while artificially pumping up the market.  In essence, the banks control the market.  Retail investors are merely along for whatever ride the banks produce.

But, there’s another insidious aspect of this and that is the leverage that the banks now have over the government (as if the zombie banks didn’t already influence it).  Given the abnormal control of the equity markets by the banks, they can hold the markets hostage to extract favorable legislation from politicians and bureaucrats.

There is much to distrust about the Japanese government.  It makes secret deals with foreign governments.  It has cozy relationships with major corporations (as we have all seen with TEPCO).  It facilitates – along with the BOJ – extraordinary powers in the banks and financial institutions.  It hides critical information from the public for its convenience (radiation data).  Worse, it controls people’s lives through the mismanagement of the economy and the welfare state for its own political ends.

81% of the Japanese people are not wrong about the government.  But it only when they realize that it isn’t just about Fukushima will they finally demand better from it.

News Photo