Ozawa to oppose Noda’s bills to hike sales tax

Kyodo

Former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa said he will oppose any bills the Noda administration submits in the current Diet session to raise the sales tax, describing the planned hike as “unreasonable” and “unsuitable as an economic policy.”

In an interview, the ruling DPJ kingpin also said Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda would find it hard to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap general election, hoping to win a public mandate for his plan to raise the sales levy.

Ozawa predicted that the electorate would not support the proposal, and said that “no politician can carry out (measures) the general public has rejected.”

Ozawa leads the DPJ’s largest intraparty faction, and his rejection of Noda’s plan to hike the consumption levy could prove a huge obstacle blocking the prime minister’s drive to improve Japan’s fiscal health.

He said that as the economy is already struggling, a tax raise would further damage both economic growth and the nation’s fiscal health. But he was supportive of raising the consumption tax at some future point, once the government has thoroughly cut wasteful spending through administrative and other reforms.

The influential lawmaker criticized Noda for focusing too much on the tax hike and not paying sufficient attention to social security system reforms.

He said Noda’s tax proposals constitute a “breach of trust” with the public, since his government has not implemented “major reforms to overhaul Japan’s system of governance” in line with the DPJ’s campaign pledges for the 2009 general election.

He said he has conveyed his opposition to bills to hike the sales levy to the party’s executives.

Ozawa also left open the possibility that he would back a no-confidence motion against the Noda Cabinet if the opposition bloc submits one at the Diet, saying, “I don’t know what I will do until I actually have to face that situation.”

If a such a motion was passed and Noda was forced to step down, Ozawa predicted that his successor would form a caretaker government and call an early poll.

“If the prime minister is replaced, his successor will become the fourth prime minister since the DPJ came to power. Calls for a snap general election will likely grow rapidly,” Ozawa said.

Ozawa, who is currently on trial over a political funds scandal, also denied that he intends to leave the DPJ, at least for the time being.

He voiced his eagerness to “lay the groundwork for reforms” after his trial concludes in April, but said he will “not necessarily spearhead” such efforts.