WASHINGTON – Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday criticized current leader Shinzo Abe’s latest economic stimulus program as “pork.”
“I cannot help feeling that it is pork-barrel spending,” Noda, a supreme adviser of the Democratic Party of Japan, said in a speech in Washington, referring to Abe’s roughly ¥5 trillion stimulus package designed to mitigate the impact of the consumption tax hike coming in April.
Noda, whose DPJ was knocked out of power by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in December, also said he “strongly feels it is questionable” that the Abe administration is mulling ending the corporate tax surcharge for disaster reconstruction a year ahead of schedule.
On Abe’s eagerness to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, which limits overseas activities of the Self-Defense Forces, Noda said it is vital that his successor ensure that any amendment avoids rattling China and South Korea.
The Abe administration should carefully explain all changes in defense policy to neighboring countries, Noda said.
About Japan’s strained relations with China, Noda called on Abe to make sure “a single matter will not affect overall” bilateral ties, citing the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute, which intensified acutely when his administration effectively nationalized the islets in September 2012. He also urged the Chinese side to adopt a “strategy of seeking a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Noda stepped down as prime minister and head of the DPJ after his party suffered a humiliating loss to Abe’s LDP in the December general election, in which he won his sixth term as a Lower House member.
Opposition parties were divided in their response to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to raise the sales tax next April.
Banri Kaieda, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters Tuesday that while the tax hike can’t be avoided, he is concerned about “unnecessary public works projects as part of economy-boosting measures” and is worried that tax revenues could be “used in the wrong way.”
Abe’s announcement that the 5 percent consumption tax will be raised to 8 percent was in line with legislation passed last year based on an agreement among three parties — the then-ruling DPJ, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which was the main opposition force at the time, and the LDP’s partner, New Komeito.
Most of the smaller opposition parties said the tax should not be increased and were critical of the economic stimulus package unveiled to minimize the impact of the tax hike.
“The best economic course is to freeze the tax hike,” Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe said in a speech on a Tokyo street. He said income and corporate taxes should be cut if the sales tax is increased.
Tadayoshi Ichida, head of the Japanese Communist Party secretariat, told reporters, “Imposing a big tax hike on citizens and cutting the tax of major companies is the worst economic stimulus measure.”
Seiji Mataichi, acting representative of the Social Democratic Party, was also critical.
“We absolutely cannot accept (the tax hike) because it will destroy people’s lives and give preferential treatment to big companies,” Mataichi said.
People’s Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa issued a statement saying much of the revenue raised by the tax hike will be used for projects that will have little public benefit.