Japan lawmakers vote to double sales tax

A bill to double Japan's sales tax and partially plug its gaping debt hole cleared the final parliamentary hurdle Friday in a triumph for the prime minister that could also cost him his job.

The legislation, which at the same time makes provision to revamp the country's precarious social security system, has been the main focus of Yoshihiko Noda's 11-month premiership.

The bill is a rare tangible achievement in the revolving door world of Japanese leaders that has seen six new men step into the role in as many years.

The House of Councillors on Friday approved the government bill by a majority of 188 to 49 with the support of major opposition parties after weeks of horse-trading.

Although his party enjoys a handsome majority in the lower, more powerful, house, Noda is without the numbers in the upper chamber and had to offer opponents the carrot of a general election in return for the bill's passage.

Observers say Noda's riven Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is likely to suffer at the hands of voters disappointed by their lacklustre three years in office and may punish him in September's party leadership election.

Quibbling former party members have complained that the DPJ came to power in 2009 without reference to any tax rise.

At a news conference following the vote, Noda apologised for the absence of any sales tax legislation in the party's manifesto, but defended his move.

"We have been mired in a position that means we need to ensure stable financial sources for social security," he told reporters.

"We should not exploit our future (through borrowing). It is not feasible to have a system where benefits mainly go to the older generation while burdens go mainly to the working generation."

Ahead of the vote, Noda's Finance Minister Jun Azumi hailed the bill.

"It is an historic achievement," he told reporters, according to the website of the Nikkei.

"Fiscal reconstruction is particularly necessary for Japan," said Azumi, a reference to its debt level, which stands at an industrial-world high of around twice its GDP.

"At a time when the global economy is unstable, Japan's firm handling of fiscal reconstruction will get rid of one risk and lead to stability globally."

International bodies, Japanese newspapers and the bulk of domestic commentators agree that raising consumption tax in stages to 10 percent is a good idea.

But less than half of the electorate approves of the plan, polls show, with populist politicians capitalising on the unwillingness of people to pay more tax in an economy that has been treading water for years.

Noda on Thursday rode out a bid by a collection of minor parties -- including former rebels from the DPJ -- to pass a motion of no-confidence in him after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) agreed not to support the move.

But the vague pledge he would hold elections "in the near future" has irked his own lawmakers, many of whom are likely to lose their seats the next time the electorate is asked for an opinion.

Despite their co-operation on the tax rise, the LDP is seen likely to seize any opportunity it has to be rid of Noda and has refused to rule out its own no-confidence motion against him.

"A movement to oust Noda from the premier's post may begin and his re-election in the party presidential vote in September is now doubtful," said Tetsuro Kato, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University.

"Sure, the tax hike is an important issue in the context of the global environment where Europe is suffering from a sovereign debt crisis, and so Noda would earn his name in history.

"But with a political crisis just postponed after the agreement with the opposition, Noda's government is destined to be as short-lived as his predecessors' were," Kato said.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Racist remark vs Pinays not reflective of HK sentiment’
    ‘Racist remark vs Pinays not reflective of HK sentiment’

    The Philippine consulate general in Hong Kong believes that the “racist” statement of legislator Regina Ip against Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong is not reflective of the general sentiments of the Hong Kong community. Hong Kong is home to more than 173,00 Filipinos working mostly as household service workers. “They have left their loved ones back home to earn a decent living taking care of Hong Kong families. This, in turn, has engendered positive impact on both the quality of life …

  • SWS: Gov’t rating sinks to record low
    SWS: Gov’t rating sinks to record low

    “The Aquino administration is firmly determined to carry on and complete priority programs in all five pillars of the Philippine development plan, to ensure that reforms will be sustained by strengthened public institutions, to tread the righteous path and ensure that good governance becomes the norm at all levels of government, and to sustain and make permanent the gains from the transformation of mindsets and institutions,” Coloma added. Lawmakers expressed belief yesterday that the Aquino …

  • ‘Pacmania’ sweeping the nation
    ‘Pacmania’ sweeping the nation

    Manny Pacquiao’s face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses, and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero’s “fight of the century” nears. Pacmania is sweeping the nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. …

  • House committee to put Bangsamoro police under PNP
    House committee to put Bangsamoro police under PNP

    The House ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will put police forces in the envisioned new autonomous Muslim region under the Philippine National Police (PNP), and not under the regional chief minister. “We will delete the provision in the draft BBL giving the chief minister operational, administrative and disciplinary control over police forces in the region,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chairman, said in a television interview. He said under …

  • Phl to seek more US military aid
    Phl to seek more US military aid

    The Philippines said yesterday it would soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defenses, as it faces Chinese “aggressiveness” in disputed waters. As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he was drafting a “wish list” for US aid. Catapang said the Philippines would ask for “equipment and training” when …

  • Senate bill seeks planting of trees in parks, schools
    Senate bill seeks planting of trees in parks, schools

    A bill in the Senate is seeking to require the planting of trees in parks, school grounds, vacant lots and other urban areas nationwide. Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said Bill No. 2566, the Greening Act of 2015, supports and complements the government’s National Greening Program to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2016. “The Philippines was once known for its vast and lush forests,”he said. The Philippines was also named one of the world’s 10 most threatened …

  • ‘No need to convene NSC over sea tension’
    ‘No need to convene NSC over sea tension’

    There is no need to convene the National Security Council at the moment, despite China’s continued provocative activities in the West Philippine Sea. “At this time, the President does not see any need really to convene the NSC,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte yesterday told a news briefing, carried live by state-run PTV-4 and radio station dzRB. …

  • Fisherman narrates Chinese harassment at sea
    Fisherman narrates Chinese harassment at sea

    Fishing is the only livelihood available for Efren Montehermoso Jr. But after a huge Chinese ship drove away his small fishing boat near the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, he promised never to return to the area for fear of his life. Montehermoso of Barangay Cato in Infanta town was among the group of 80 Filipino fishermen driven away by Chinese coast guard on April 9. Montehermoso said they went to the disputed area not to fish but just to seek temporary …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options