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Lessons for Sri Lanka in Japan's  journey from devastation site to economic miracle

8 months ago

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BY Chathushki Godellawatta When one thinks of a “developed” country, the first thought that would come to mind would probably be a stable and mature economy, typically linked to industrialisation. Needless to say, the concept of development encompasses a much larger scope, including issues like environmental conservation that have become a highlight of this century. With that, let us take a look at Japan as one such country, or more precisely, at their story of achieving a miracle following the devastation during the 20th Century, among other things. Today, Japan boasts the third-highest gross domestic product in the world, declaring itself a nation of industry and production. Living standards in the country are also recorded to be amongst the highest in the world, following the flourishing economy of the past decades. Once upon a time however, the future of Japan looked rather bleak in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. History books have reminded us time and time again of the world wars that left the entire world stunned. The country of Japan was no exception, having being been crippled to rock bottom under the added destruction of two atomic bombs in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the complete fall of the Japanese Empire. Nonetheless, Japan showed the first sign of undying spirit to the world in its efforts to rebuild the fallen nation. It is said that the Hiroshima electric railway started up again only three days after the city was bombed, so as to support the survivors with a beacon of light that not all was lost. For a while though, it did seem a daunting challenge to rebuild an entire nation from the ground up, after the complete demolition of its industrial bases and the tarnishing of its pride. The country was also at a major disadvantage with its poor endowment of natural resources needed for industry, such as oil, iron, and aluminum. Due to this exact reason, Japan turned to a policy of re-establishing itself in the global supply chain and importing many of the raw materials that it lacked.  Thus, the concept of “resources” took on the purpose of service to the people, breaking away from its military connotation of the early 20th Century. This, paired with a series of pragmatic and ambitious economic and political strategies – particularly those of Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda – allowed the country to get back on its feet and then reach soaring heights. One of the most significant attributes of this strategy was the consideration of long-term development, with abundant investment in capital and economic infrastructure, which ensured future potential growth. Another is the importance that Japan, to this date, places in education and literacy, with its 99% national literacy rate.  Thus, a highly educated new wave of employees led by Japan’s inherent cultural value of discipline contributed vastly to the country’s rapid economic growth rate, which earned Japan the title of the world’s second-largest economy until 2010. Thus, although the country depends largely on imports for their wellbeing, it should be noted that their demand is matched with their large and diversified export market, which at times even created trade surpluses. However, massive production, especially in the heavy industry sector, naturally brings in a host of environmental issues, which Japan has pledged to combat. For this mission, the country has sought to tackle the matter through stringent Government laws and policies, paying close attention to air and ocean quality in particular. What is more is that Japan, being a solitary island and possessing a largely mountainous landscape, faces the issue of lack of space for waste disposal. The response was to instill an aggressive system of efficient waste management and recycling into the very heart of modern culture, again conditioned by a strong sense of discipline and personal responsibility. Japan’s vision of a sustainable future is also displayed in the reconstruction following the great East Japan earthquake of 2011 and the ensuing tsunami, where the region’s decision was to reinvent traditional lifestyles in an eco-friendly manner. This includes increasing investment in renewable energy sources such as hydrogen. This in turn gives nature the special attention it deserves at a time where the climate and the environment have become the definition of change, showing us that man needs not to sacrifice, but to learn to appreciate and co-exist with the natural world that nurtures him. I was once told that the beauty of a nation lies not only in its clear ravines, grasslands, or fresh mountain air, but in the soul of its people. And as recent history has shown up to date, the soul of the people of Japan is characterised primarily by resilience and dignity. Thus, Japan inspires those around the world with its vision of a brighter, more promising future, and should inspire Sri Lanka as it ensures the worst economic crisis since Independence.  (The writer is a General Certificate of Education Advanced Level student) …………………..  

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