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从雪糕涨价6毛钱看日本的经济困境

更新时间:2016-5-19 19:09:30 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

In Japan’s Slow Economy, Rare Price Rise Prompts Surplus of Remorse
从雪糕涨价6毛钱看日本的经济困境

TOKYO — One of the most talked-about television commercials in Japan this year advertises an unusual product: contrition.

东京——日本人今年谈论最多的电视广告之一,和一个不同寻常的产品有关:致歉。

The ad shows a group of workers and executives from an ice cream company lined up in neat rows in front of their suburban Tokyo factory. As gentle folk music plays, they bow in apology.

在这则广告中,一家冰淇淋公司的员工和管理人员在东京郊区的工厂门前整齐站立着,伴随着轻柔的民谣音乐,他们一起躬身道歉。

The company’s transgression? Adding 10 yen, or about 9 cents, to the price of Garigari-kun, a hugely popular soda-flavor ice cream bar. About 500 million of the bright blue snacks are consumed every year, mostly by children.

这家公司做错了什么?他们把一种汽水味雪糕“嘎哩嘎哩君”的售价调高了10日元(约合0.6元人民币)。这种亮蓝色的雪糕很受欢迎,每年销售约5亿支,消费者大多是儿童。

Increasing prices are a big deal in Japan. The country’s sluggish economy means that the cost of most things has not risen in 20 years, and almost any increase makes headlines.

涨价在日本是一件大事。该国经济不景气,大多数东西在过去20年里没有涨过价,几乎每次出现涨价都会登上新闻。

Consumer prices are a painful economic headache for Japan. The country’s officials have been trying to break this stubborn pattern of deflation by pumping money into the economy and bolstering public spending. Japan’s economy, which has been oscillating between growth and contraction for years, picked up speed in the first quarter, according to government data released on Wednesday.

消费物价对日本经济来说是个很头疼的问题。该国官员一直试图通过向经济中注入资金并提高公共支出来化解顽固的通货紧缩。日本经济常年在增长和萎缩之间摇摆。本周三,政府公布的数据显示,经济增长的速度在第一季度有所加快。

But the price increases that do go through — like the cost of the Garigari-kun ice cream bar rising to ¥70, from ¥60 — do not reflect a more vibrant economy or a stronger consumer. They usually mean a company is facing higher costs cutting into its profit. The deflationary trends are still firmly in place. And wages are under more pressure than prices, so buying power for most Japanese has declined compared with a generation ago.

但是,上涨的物价——比如“嘎哩嘎哩君”雪糕从60日元涨价到70日元——并不意味着经济变得更有活力,或者消费趋势增强了,而是通常意味着公司成本增加,使得利润变薄了。通货紧缩的趋势仍然难以动摇。相比于物价,工资遭受的压力更大,所以大多数日本人的购买力并不如上一代人。

“Garigari-kun is meant to be something kids can easily buy with their allowance,” said Fumio Hagiwara, a marketing executive at Akagi Nyugyo, the maker of the ice cream bar. “Even grown-ups have less pocket money these days.”

“‘嘎哩嘎哩君’应该是小孩可以轻松地用零用钱购买的东西,”在出产这种雪糕的赤城乳业株式会社(Akagi Nyugyo),营销高管荻原文雄(Fumio Hagiwara)表示。“现如今,就连大人的零用钱也减少了。”

Akagi last increased prices a quarter of a century ago, and it debated the recent rise for seven or eight years, Mr. Hagiwara said. The rising cost of raw materials finally forced Akagi’s hand, he said. Tighter logging restrictions in China, for instance, meant it had to use more expensive Russian lumber for ice cream sticks.

赤城乳业上次调价是在四分之一个世纪以前。荻原文雄透露,公司近七八年来一直在讨论涨价的事。他说,原材料成本的上升最终迫使赤城上调了售价。比如,中国加严了对伐木的限制,公司不得不使用价格更昂贵的俄罗斯木材来制作雪糕棒。

In stronger economic circumstances, Akagi’s price increase would not stand out. Companies in other places routinely pass on higher costs to consumers. But in Japan, businesses that face rising costs feel they have less ability to do so because wages are flat. Instead, they take a hit to their profits or cut back rather than alienate consumers.

在更好的经济环境中,赤城乳业的涨价行动不会这么引人瞩目。其他国家的企业常常把更高的成本转嫁给消费者。但在日本,成本上升的公司会觉得自己无力调高售价,因为消费者的工资并没有增加。所以公司宁可利润少一点,或者削减开支,也不愿意疏远消费者。

“We don’t have any more income, but taxes are rising,” said Kazuko Ida, 65, who lives in Tokyo. As a result, she said, she is especially reluctant to spend more. “It’s one thing if luxury items are expensive, but if cheap things aren’t cheap anymore, it’s a real problem.”

“我们的收入没有增加,但税却在上升,”现年65岁的东京居民井田和子(Kazuko Ida,音)说。她表示,这带来的结果是她特别不愿意多花钱。“奢侈品贵是一回事,但如果便宜的东西也不再便宜,就真的有问题了。”

Japanese policy makers have long identified deflation as enemy No. 1 for the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won power four years ago on a promise to stamp it out. The central bank has been flooding financial markets with cheap money, and it has gone so far as to cut its benchmark interest rate below zero, a policy that has been tried in only a few other developed countries.

长久以来,日本的决策层一直将通货紧缩看作经济发展的头号敌人。首相安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)四年前就是凭借做出遏制通货紧缩的承诺才掌权。中央银行一直在向金融市场注入大量资金,甚至将基准利率降至零以下——只有少数发达国家采取过这种政策。

But the results officials have been seeking — robust increases in borrowing and spending, and a sustained rise in prices — have been elusive. The Consumer Price Index is back below zero, after an upswing during Mr. Abe’s first two years in office. Wholesale prices tumbled 4.2 percent in April, their sharpest decline in more than six years.

即便如此,官员们期待的结果——强劲的借贷和消费增长、物价持续上行——仍难以显现。在安倍执政头两年出现上扬之后,日本的消费价格指数又重新陷入负增长。今年4月份,商品批发价格暴跌4.2%,是过去六年多里跌幅最大的一次。

A recent rise in the value of the yen, after several years of weakness under Mr. Abe, has made beating deflation harder. A weak yen means costlier imports, which helps drive overall inflation. But now imports on the whole are getting cheaper again.

在安倍领导下的头几年里,日元一直保持弱势,但最近有所走强,令击退通货紧缩的目标更加难以实现。日元疲软意味着进口商品价格更高,由此推高整体通货膨胀水平。但现在进口商品价格整体而言又再度走低。

The economic report on Wednesday showed that Japan’s economy expanded 1.7 percent in annualized, price-adjusted terms in the quarter that ended in March. That was significantly faster than forecasts. Still, economists urged caution: Spending by households and businesses was down, and so were exports — all crucial pillars of growth.

周三发布的经济报告显示,在根据物价调整之后,日本经济在截止今年3月的一季度里年化增长率为1.7%。这个数字比预期高了不少。不过,经济学家们依然劝告大家保持谨慎:住房和商业支出都在下降,出口额也不例外——这些都是经济增长的关键支柱。

Rather than rely on those, the economy benefited from higher government spending and a decline in imports. The extra day in February because of the leap year also helped, specialists said.

日本经济近期的增长依赖的并非这些支柱,而是得益于政府支出增长和进口额下降。专家表示,因今年是闰年,2月比往年多了1天,这也是有利因素之一。

“Reasons for the upside surprise were not encouraging,” said Masamichi Adachi, chief Japan economist at JPMorgan Chase. He said the economy was likely to remain stagnant.

“尽管出现了令人意外的增长,背后的原因却无法令人感到鼓舞,”摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)驻日本的首席经济师足立正道(Masamichi Adachi)称。他还表示,日本经济很可能会继续停滞不前。

Since Mr. Abe’s conservative coalition was elected in December 2012, the economy has expanded in eight quarters and shrunk in five. Newspaper opinion surveys suggest that about half of voters are dissatisfied with his economic program, known as Abenomics. A disorganized political opposition has offered little in the way of alternatives, but an election for the upper house of Parliament in July is adding to pressure to turn things around.

自安倍领导的保守派执政联盟在2012年上台以来,日本经济在其中八个季度里有所增长,而在五个季度里出现萎缩。报刊上的民意调查显示,大约有一半的选民对他的“安倍经济学”政策感到不满。尽管缺乏组织的反对党也没能拿出像样的替代方案,但即将在7月举行的参议院选举令安倍政府面临扭转现有局面的更大压力。

Mr. Abe is looking at ways to restore momentum. The government is drafting a supplementary stimulus budget and is considering delaying an increase in the national sales tax planned for April 2017. The two percentage point tax increase, the second of two planned rises, has already been put off once. Supporters say it is needed to reduce Japan’s large budget deficit. But the first increase, in 2014, hurt consumers and was blamed for pushing the economy into recession.

安倍正在寻找重振经济的办法。政府在制定一项额外的刺激预算,也在考虑延迟原定于2017年4月生效的上调消费税的计划。这两个百分点的税率增长,是两阶段税收上调计划中的第二阶段,此前已经被推迟了一次。支持者表示,日本需要实施该计划才能减少庞大的预算赤字。但2014年的首次增税挫伤了消费者的信心,并被指为日本经济陷入衰退的原因。

In the ice cream business, Mr. Hagiwara said Akagi had calculated that Garigari-kun’s sales volume would drop by 7 percent as a result of raising prices. The sales hit, the company believed, would be more than counterbalanced by the higher price.

至于雪糕行业,荻原表示,赤城乳业之前就预计到,价格上涨会导致“嘎哩嘎哩君”的销量下降7%。公司相信,售价提高带来的好处会超过这部分的损失。

But it appears that for his company, at least, an apology is an effective way to deal with the pain. Mr. Hagiwara said sales jumped by about 10 percent in the first month or so after the price increase in March, though they have since begun to fall back.

不过,对于该公司而言,向公众道歉似乎至少是一种应对这一打击的有效方式。狄原表示,今年3月产品提价以后的大概一个月里,公司销售额曾上涨约10%,尽管之后又有所回落。

“We figure it will take another year before we know how consumers really take to it,” he said.

“我们觉得还得再过一年时间才能知道消费者对涨价的接受度到底如何,”他说。

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