The government must apply a reduced rate to certain daily necessities to soften the impact of the second stage of the consumption tax hike in April 2017, even if it means collecting less revenue and creating extra work for some people, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said Thursday.
Unveiling its policy platform for the Dec. 14 Lower House election, the junior party in the ruling coalition pledged to speed up discussions with the Liberal Democratic Party on which items to discount, saying agreement is essential to gaining public backing for the next stage, which will complete the levy’s doubling to 10 percent.
Under pressure from Komeito, the LDP pledged earlier this week to “aim for” the use of tax breaks on daily necessities when the tax hike is completed.
Although some in the LDP are reluctant to create such a complex system, Yamaguchi said the ruling camp should put consumers first.
“For the first time, the prime minister has vowed to aim for introducing a reduced tax rate system. I believe that’s extremely important,” Yamaguchi said in a group interview. “I believe working toward the introduction of such systems in 2017 should be the basic stance of the government and the ruling parties.”
Komeito is pressuring the LDP to reduce tax rates for food and beverages, although alcohol and dining out would be excluded.
Backed by the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, Komeito also promised to exercise extreme care when revising national security laws to reflect the landmark decision made in July to reinterpret the Constitution so Japan can sidestep the Article 9 ban on collective self-defense.
The snap election called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has left key legislation in limbo. Debate on legal revisions can only resume in spring at the earliest — following nationwide local elections in April — but Komeito pledged to deepen discussions in the Diet and “gain the understanding of the public.”
Asked whether Komeito has succeeded in reining in Abe’s right-leaning administration, Yamaguchi said the party’s role is to bring stability to the government and move things forward.
“The important thing is to have a full discussion and then reach an agreement. If we struggle to do that, I don’t believe we can gain the trust of the public,” he said.
The party also said it would tighten legal accountability for politicians.
Fundraising scandals claimed the careers of two Cabinet ministers in October. Komeito said it will seek to revise the political funds control law to make lawmakers more liable for the actions of their accounting staff and secretaries.
On the reactor restart issue, Komeito restated its goal of phasing out atomic power but said it remains open to restarting reactors based on “the understanding of the public and of local residents.”
As measures to boost the housing market, which slumped after the April 1 tax hike, the party promised to reduce interest rates on loans and to revive the Eco-point incentive program to encourage people to build or buy energy-efficient homes. Official campaigning for the Dec. 14 election kicks off Tuesday.
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