On September 3, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met economic and fiscal
policy Akira Amari and Finance Minister Taro Aso and was briefed on
the results of the government hearings to study the possible negative
impact of a consumption tax hike from 5% at present to 8% next April.
Abe said he would announce his decision in early-October after
examining the results of the next Bank of Japan “tankan” business
On September 5, BoJ board of directors held a meeting and decided to
increase the monetary base by supplying additional 60-70 trillion yen
annually, announcing that the economy is in the phase of slow recovery.
BoJ president Kuroda announced his view that the economic recovery
will continue for a while. Whereas showing his view that the
scheduled-tax-hike won’t influence the nascent economic recovery,
Kuroda announced to conduct a further relaxing monetary policy in case
the tax-hike hits the economy and the 2% of price target becomes
infeasible. Kuroda’s remark may be considered as a request to the
Cabinet to conduct the tax-hike as scheduled under the legislation
enacted last year as well as containment toward the voices against the
tax-hike within the government. Yoshimi Watanabe, president of Your
Party, criticized that BoJ should focus on beating the chronic
deflation and should not interfere with such a political matter as the
The Cabinet Office released the revised growth figures for the
April-June quarter on September 9, announcing that the real GDP turned
to +0.9% (3.8% in annual rate) for the first time in the latest 6
quarters. Seemingly the figure was pushed by the business investment.
The nominal GDP, more closely linked to household spending, was
released as +0.9% (3.8% in annual rate), as well.
There are the supporting factors toward the tax-hike such as the
result of the government hearings which 70% of the experts supported
it, the revised growth figures which indicated the economy positively,
and that Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics. Meanwhile, yet,
there are the persistent voices against the tax-hike as the economic
recovery is yet to be realized as actual feeling. For example, the
labor statistics survey released in July, while the total salary was
increased due to the bonus and other additional incomes, the basic
salary has been decreased for the straight 14 months. There are such
voices to request full countermeasures to prevent economic
deterioration before deciding the tax-hike.
On September 10, Abe told Aso and Amari to compile countermeasures to
prevent the tax-hike from collapsing the economic recovery by
end-September. The ministers will likely prepare measures like a
supplementary budget and tax-reduction on investment. Abe will likely
announce the measures when he announces his decision on the tax-hike
in “early October”. Abe will likely announce his decision on either
October 1 or 2, after BoJ releases “the last economic indicator”.
The Cabinet and the ruling coalition agreed to convene the
extraordinary Diet session on October 15, after Abe attends the summit
of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum from Oct. 7 to 8 in
Indonesia. The session will likely be until early December. The
Cabinet will regard the session as arena for realizing the growth
strategy, and will seek passages of the legislations regarding the
industrial competitiveness, corporate tax-reduction on investment,
Japanese version of NSC, and the power industry reform.
While the term of LDP executive officers will expire in
end-September, Abe announced on September 4 announced he would
reappoint all the executives in the current offices. Also, Abe
announced not to conduct a Cabinet reshuffle as it’s been less than a
year since the ruling coalition came back to power. Abe will cope with
the difficult challenges including the tax-hike, TPP talks, growth
strategy and the initial budget FY2014 with the current core members
in the Cabinet and LDP.
Meanwhile, Abe will reshuffle about half of the vice-ministers and
parliamentary secretaries (about 50 seats) for considering feelings of
the LDP faction leaders as well as the middle and young lawmakers. Abe
will roughly arrange the nominations by September 20. Still, as about
30% of the lawmakers are reelected for more than 5 times, which is
normally considered as ripe for minister’s offices by the party’s
seniority rule, there are discontents over Abe’s announcement not to
reshuffle the Cabinet members.
There is an increasing estimation that Abe will decide to raise the
consumption tax rate. Further, the government already started
discussing compilation of a supplementary budget on a premise of the
tax-hike. At the same time, the special advisors to Abe are opposed to
the scheduled tax hike.
Abe maintained the attitude not to announce his decision until he
makes it even during the G20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Let’s see the prospect carefully.