The Japanese finance minister, Taro Aso, made an interesting leap of logic last Friday. He essentially said that the reason why Japan is not suffering as much as other nations in the current global economic crisis is because Japanese bankers aren’t very good at English.
His reasoning goes like this:
- The American banks sold dodgy financial products (such as the sub-prime mortgages) to banks around the world.
- These products failed and so all the major banks who bought them suffered.
- Because those banks suffered so did the countries where those banks were based.
For this reason we saw failures right around the world… except Japan because, according to Taro Aso, this is what happened in Japan:
- American banks sent details of these ropey products – in English – to Japanese banks.
- The top Japanese bankers who had to view these products couldn’t understand the language.
- To save face the Japanese banks turned down the products rather than admit they didn’t understand what they said.
Whether Taro Aso’s logic is correct or not is another matter but the idea that Japan has emerged relatively unscathed by the global economic crisis because of bad English is an intriguing one!