• Kyodo News

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Economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano suggested Saturday that the consumption tax rate could be raised around 2015 to pay for burgeoning social security costs.

“When I studied the issue in the Liberal Democratic Party, the figure of 2015 was floated in discussions,” Yosano said on a TV program without elaborating just how high the rate should go.

Yosano also suggested the rate is likely to stay unchanged at 5 percent at least until 2013 unless a snap election for the Lower House is called. “The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has a policy of not raising the rate for four years from 2009, when we had the (previous) general elections,” Yosano said.

“We can’t hike the rate drastically” in one go, he said. “We’ll need the judgment that the economic circumstances can permit a tax increase.”

Yosano, a defector from the LDP and now an independent, said he will refrain from helping Prime Minister Naoto Kan persuade the opposition camp to take part in talks on social security and tax reforms.

He will instead focus on producing an outline on the matter in June, he said.

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