Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to once again postpone the consumption tax hike, this time by 30 months through October 2019 — well after his supposedly last term as Liberal Democratic Party president will have ended — may be the right move to avoid weakening consumer spending, which would only slow his administration's bid to bust deflation. But delaying the tax hike alone won't generate the kind of economic conditions that Abe pledged to achieve through his trademark policies.
Of course the prime minister won't accept the charge that his decision — despite the pledge he made the last time he postponed the tax hike in 2014 that he wouldn't do so again — represents the failure of Abenomics, which would give ammunition to the opposition camp trying to take on his ruling coalition in the Upper House election several weeks from now. At the news conference Wednesday where he announced the decision, Abe denied the opposition charges by saying that under his watch, tax revenues surged by trillions and employment figures have improved to their best level in nearly a quarter century.
But what the prime minister needs to do is not insist that his policies have been working as intended — and lay the blame somewhere else — but make an honest assessment of what has been lacking in his administration's economic management since he returned to the government's helm in late 2012. Delaying the tax hike may buy more time for reviving the economy, but it must not be wasted by repeating the same policies of the last four years.