Noda stakes his administration, political life on hiking sales tax

Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday said there would be no point in his administration remaining in office if it fails to enact legislation to increase the sales tax by June.

“If I find myself unable to make decisions and to enact the government’s policies, there would be no reason for my Cabinet to continue,” Noda said during a speech to business and union leaders in Tokyo.

“I’m determined to push ahead with raising the consumption levy, and to have a tax hike bill enacted during the current Diet session” that ends June 21, Noda said.

“I will stake my political life on it,” he declared.

The prime minister is currently struggling to build a consensus on the contentious issue even within his ruling Democratic Party of Japan, but he advised against any delay in the legislation’s scheduled submission to the Diet this month.

Putting off the bill’s introduction until April “should not happen,” Noda warned, comparing any postponement to “a defeat at the semifinal stage (of a sports tournament), before the ruling and opposition parties battle it out over the tax hike in the final game.”

Senior DPJ executives initially tried to have the Cabinet approve the outline of a tax hike bill last week, but were forced to abandon that plan amid strong resistance from many of the party’s lawmakers, including those close to former leader Ichiro Ozawa — who heads the largest intraparty faction.

The bill aims to raise the 5 percent consumption tax to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October 2015, to generate additional revenue to help cover the nation’s swelling social security expenses.