If you take the earthquake that hit New Zealand a few weeks ago and multiplied it by 1,000, you would get the one that hit Japan last week. Or if you remember the one that devastated Haiti last year, this one is several hundred times more powerful.
That’s why, despite all the precautions and preparedness, the devastation has been so great.
Most experts agree that in terms of safety plans and procedures, Japan has done almost everything right.
It is too soon to do anything but mourn, but this tragedy does remind us that no matter how much advanced work a country does, no matter how well the buildings are built, nothing can prepare you for this.
Nevertheless, the work has helped. The death toll in Japan would be much, much worse if not for all the safety codes and drills that they had adopted.
Even in their nuclear power plants, things could have gotten much, more worse.
The one area where Japan did not adequately prepare itself was economics.
Japan has not managed its economy with the awareness that it might suffer from earthquakes and thus need room to be able to take on the large-scale debt that rebuilding its economy would require.
Quite to the contrary, Japan has a debt load almost twice the size of its total GDP. This is the worst of all rich countries. The International Monetary Fund says that in four years, Japan’s debt will equal 250% of GDP. That’s before this earthquake, which will add tens of billions of dollars to the debt.
Although no one can ever prepare for a tsunami like this, we all need to keep our eyes on worst-case scenarios: financial meltdowns, wars and natural disasters.
All of these things can happen, and we should keep them in mind in managing our lives, companies and countries. We need to give ourselves enough flexibility and resilience to be able to handle such crises.
Japan did not do that in the economic case. Isn’t it time for us to start worrying about whether we in the United States have done that? Or will we wait until the next crisis hits – until the next earthquake?