Saturday, April 20, 2024

EDITORIAL: In Japan’s hard moment of truth


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THE WHOLE WORLD must be in a state of mourning as details of the horrific damage caused by the massive tsunami in Japan continue to trickle in. The magnitude 8.9 earthquake that caused the tsunami was the largest earthquake Japan has ever experienced in modern times.  
Those of us who have seen footage of this disaster on television will never forget it.  And the nightmare is not yet over as thousands are known to have died – and the numbers will almost certainly go up. Added to this, there have been dozens of aftershocks since the first strike, many of them quite large.  
So what is this disaster going to do to the third largest economy in the world? Japan already had a national debt that was well over 200 per cent of gross domestic product.  Could this be the “tipping point” that pushes the Japanese economy over the edge and into oblivion? We hope not.
It is hard to assess the full scope of the damage to Japan at this point, but virtually everyone agrees that much of northern Japan is a total disaster area at this point. Many towns have essentially been destroyed.  
Fortunately, major cities such as Tokyo came through this event relatively unscathed and most of the major manufacturing facilities have escaped the ravages and are not directly affected by the earthquake and the tsunami.
But let there be no doubt, this was a nation-changing event as Japan will never quite be the same again. Also, it isn’t just Japan that will be affected by this. The truth is that economic ripples from this event will be felt all over the world.
With the memory of the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, still fresh in our minds, the Japan quake last Friday served as a terrifying reminder that big quakes can strike any time and the Caribbean must not be complacent and say it cannot happen here.
The scale of the tragedy that has hit Japan is overwhelming. The consequences have been calamitous, even for a country that is no stranger to natural disasters. What is worse is that three explosions at a nuclear power plant have added to serious contamination concerns and led to evacuations.
The costs are going to be enormous.
The world’s third largest economy had just been showing signs of recovering from an economic contraction. Now, it faces a massive repair bill of epic proportions.
The world grieves with Japan, as it prepares to help it deal with the crisis. Yet the world must also salute the Japanese state and society, which even in the throes of such a tragedy managed to remain calm and orderly and keep chaos at bay, demonstrating how planning can mitigate the consequences of disasters.
The lesson is that while natural disaster can hit at any moment, proper planning and the existence of coordinated standard operating procedures can save lives.
We extend our profound sympathy to the Japanese people in their moment of crisis.


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