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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi predicted Saturday that raising the consumption tax will be inevitable in the future and said he welcomes a public debate on the issue.

Koizumi raised the possibility of a hike in the consumption tax during a TV debate in the early hours of Saturday, but tried to assure viewers that there would no change in the tax rate at least during his three-year term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Looking into the future, past the next three years, a raise in the consumption tax would be inevitable.” Koizumi said.

Koizumi, who was re-elected as LDP president last month, has so far denied any intention to raise the 5 percent consumption tax, which is charged on most purchases of goods and services in Japan, while he is in office.

By suggesting that a hike in the consumption tax rate is “inevitable” in the future, Koizumi has all but invited the issue being put on the agenda in the campaign for the general election of the House of Representatives on Nov. 9.

During the debate on the TBS television network, Koizumi sought to put off public debate on the consumption tax, saying it is the job of future governments to “decide on future issues.”

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