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INTERVIEW: Japan's First Lady Akie Abe speaks out on sales tax, nuclear power

Published on Sep 4, 2014 3:44 PM
Akie Abe, wife of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaks during an interview with Reuters at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Sept 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese First Lady Akie Abe - often called the "household opposition" for her penchant to speak out - said on Thursday the country should consider cutting wasteful spending and boosting the economy before going ahead with a rise in the sales tax to 10 percent, as her husband wrestles with just that decision.

Mrs Abe is a rarity among Japan's First Ladies, most of whom have been largely invisible. The prime minister's skilful PR machine has not silenced her remarks, which could soften the image of a leader seen by detractors as a nationalist with pro-business policies.

"Considering the falling birth rate and ageing society, it probably can't be helped," Mrs Abe, 52, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday at the prime minister's official residence, referring to an eventual rise in the sales tax. "I think there are still areas where, if not a waste, taxes are not being used properly and could probably be fixed," the soft-spoken First Lady added.

"I can understand there are aspects that would be difficult if we don't raise the sales tax, but in my personal opinion, before doing that, shouldn't we put a bit effort into the economy, fix what can be fixed and cut what can be cut?"

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