Two nations in two different kinds of trouble require two different kinds of assistance, says Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief executive and co-chief investment officer of PIMCO. In a pair of written opinion pieces published on Wednesday and Thursday, El-Erian discusses Japan and Portugal and the broader European debt crisis and what he considers the inadequate response of European leaders. In both cases, he called for more cohesive action on the part of government leaders.
In the case of Japan, with its triple catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant troubles, El-Erian (left) warns against a rush to judgment on how quickly Japan can get back on its feet. While the world looks at the Kobe earthquake in 1995 as an example of how quickly Japan can recover from a terrible calamity, he warns that far more factors are at work that could slow the recovery and rebuilding that he is nonetheless sure will take place.
El-Erian points out that at the time of the Kobe temblor, the world was in a better place: thriving economies globally and a lower debt load nationally positioned Japan to rebuild relatively quickly, despite the loss of life and need to restore infrastructures. Now, however, Japan staggers under a debt load that has already reduced its sovereign rating and must also deal with the ongoing nuclear crisis. Tokyo itself was affected this time, if not directly, and both food and manufacturing pose ongoing problems as radiation contamination threatens the one and lack of power and capacity slows the other.
The lack of a strong global economy will also slow the process of rebuilding, and the global rise
of food prices will take a toll as well. The need for cohesive action by the Japanese government, something that has not been much in evidence, is also necessary not just for reconstruction but for regrowth.