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Edano: Hike sales tax after the next election

by Kanako Takahara

The consumption tax should be raised after the next general election, which must be held before summer 2013, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano suggested Thursday.

In a group interview with media organizations Thursday, Edano said the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto states that the party won’t raise the sales tax until the House of Representatives is reformed with new members.

“Most members of the Cabinet, including myself, gained our seats in the general and Upper House elections by promoting the DPJ manifesto,” Edano said. “We will be bound to its basic ideas.”

Edano’s remark is just one of several contradictory comments the various ministers have made on whether to raise taxes before or after the election. Some have even urged the ruling party to ask the public before making a decision.

Edano, a lawyer-turned politician, said the clashing remarks and the headlines that result should expedite things.

“There are various opinions among people on pension and social welfare issues and the system is not well understood,” Edano said, adding that reports on the contradictions should help arouse public debate.

The government is expected to draft its proposal for pension and tax reform by June.

As for his boss, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Edano said there is no need to worry that he might abruptly resign, like his immediate predecessors.

“He bears a grave responsibility to the people and the next generation. He is strongly determined to fulfill that responsibility,” Edano said.

Kan’s predecessors — Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso of the Liberal Democratic Party and Yukio Hatoyama of the DPJ — all served a year at most.

At 46, Edano is the youngest chief Cabinet secretary ever. His appointment has triggered concern that he is too inexperienced to serve in such a key post.

“There are positive sides to being young,” Edano said. “That is speed, and I would like to make full use of the positive side.”

As the government’s top spokesman, Edano went out of his way to avoid making politically sensitive comments in the interview. He also refused to comment on besieged DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, only saying that Secretary General Katsuya Okada is doing his utmost to resolve the legal drama being played out over his political funds report scandal.

Asked if a political realignment is in the cards because of the gridlock in the Diet, Edano said he wouldn’t even let the thought cross his mind.

“I will remove such a topic from my mind while I serve in this post,” he said.

Known as a smooth-speaking debater in his school years, Edano abruptly made headlines last year by indirectly referring to China as a “bad neighbor” during Tokyo’s diplomatic spat with China over a maritime run-in near the Senkaku Islands.