Ratings agency Moody's says Japan may face a third lost decade.
Moody's cites concerns over Japan's debt issue in negative comments about the country's economy. REUTERS

You probably wouldn't wish a third lost decade on your worst enemy, much less a nation that has felt the world's compassion in recent months struggling to overcome disaster from devastating earthquakes and resulting nuclear fallout from reactors damaged in those earthquakes. But that's what Moody's ratings agency says, suggesting that Japan, the world's third largest economy behind the United States and China, could face a third lost decade of sluggish economic growth that will leave the nation debt ridden and listing in the global economy.

Moody's said in its report the failure of Japan's government to meet a self-imposed June 20 deadline for announcing a long-term plan to deal with the nation's mounting debt issue was a major reason for the negative comments. Moody's suggested in its comments the agency is moving closer to cutting Japan's credit rating.

Already Japan in in the midst of its second lost decade. Some analysts and experts had hoped initially when Japan suffered crushing and deadly earthquakes and tsunami in the spring that rebuilding from the effort might spur the country, recently passed by China in economic girth, to a rebound. Unfortunately, damage from the disastrous events has only added to the country's debt load, lessening the impact of spending for reconstruction over the long term.

While Japan is likely to have a V-shaped recovery later this year from the March 11 earthquake, subsequent economic growth may subside to a lackluster pace, Moody's said in a statement posted on the agency's website.

Japan's economy has struggled to get re-started with any meaningful growth since an asset price bubble burst in 1990. The nation has officially darted in and out of recession, but even in the best of times, economically speaking, it has been the worst of times since post-war emergence in the 20th century since growth years have been marked by lackluster exclamation that has extended from one decade to another. Now, Moody's suggest Japan's economic future faces a continuation - a third lost decade.

Ratings agencies including Moody's aren't expected to downgrade Japan's credit rating for several years at least until the full impact of investment and recovery following the country's earthquake and tsunami is known, but the report by Moody's suggests it may occur eventually should the country's debt burden not improve.