Friday, February 10, 2012

Japanese Construction

The construction industry in Japan is really good at making earthquake-proof buildings, but it can be quite an irritating industry at times. In 1990, the construction industry employed nearly 10% of the labor force in the country. Wow! Of course, this was also around the time that the Japanese Asset Price Bubble burst, causing a huge deflation of real estate and stock in the economy.

Japanese politicians are notorious for creating pork-barrel construction projects to garner support in their districts. One of Japan's "greatest" politicians, Kakuei Tanaka, easily received rural votes by funneling money into his home district of Niigata. Even now, in spite of the Japanese recession, politicians still spend millions on these ventures.

What bothers me is that the scope of these arguably unnecessary projects affects daily life in a noticeable way. Although it is nothing more than an inconvenience, having to endure no less than four ongoing roadwork projects in my village gets on my nerves after a while. Especially when those projects occur simultaneously, blocking literally every major street in the village. In the countryside, where the roads are one-lane only, this can hinder everyday commute. Like passing toll booths, I have to drive through at least three of these four construction sites every day on my way to and from work.

The construction industry has its good points and its bad points. Recently, the bad points have been piling up. For instance, the recent shooting of a construction magnate who was involved with the Japanese mafia. The yakuza have a strong foothold in this industry and the estimated 10 trillion dollars necessary to fix the damage from the 2011 tsunami/earthquake has only made their mouths water more. I just hope the earthquake recovery doesn't cause Japan to dig itself into a deeper financial hole with more egregious spending.

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