Japan’s debt dilemma

Governments "do not go bankrupt because they always have the power to tax," a senior Japanese financial official commented (only half jokingly) in 2001 when the Ministry of Finance published a trial national balance sheet which showed that the central government had a net deficit of assets against liabilities of Y163 trillion. The balance sheet has not been published since, but the government deficit has meanwhile increased and has become a proverbial "ticking time-bomb" with an apparently short