The push by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his administration to raise the consumption tax is a key step that "will make the Japanese economy more agile and efficient," Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said Friday in Tokyo.

Appearing at a news conference, the IMF chief revealed that the topic came up during a meeting with Noda earlier in the day. The tax hike "is a project that the IMF has always supported, and I had a chance to congratulate the prime minister" for the recent progress, Lagarde said.

She stressed that more measures will be needed to clear Japan's bloated debt, but a tax hike will be a key step in the right direction.