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The government is considering scrapping a scheduled April premium hike in the national pension plan for self-employed people, to keep from further dampening consumer spending, Health and Welfare Minister Sohei Miyashita said Tuesday.At a news conference following a Cabinet meeting, Miyashita revealed the possibility of canceling the plan to increase the monthly premiums to 14,000 yen for the next fiscal year, which begins in April 1999. The monthly premiums for the current fiscal year are set at 13,300 yen.About 19 million self-employed people, aged 20 and older, subscribe to the national pension scheme. The planned increase is expected to push up the public cost of social security roughly 100 billion yen a year. A careful review of the planned hike is needed because the effects of higher social security costs could trigger negative effects on economies at home and abroad, Miyashita said.The government recently decided to postpone the planned increase in premiums for the national employee pension insurance plan, originally scheduled for next October, for one or two years, in accordance with a proposal made by the Strategic Economic Council, an advisory panel to the prime minister.

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