Japan PM Kishida faces calls for election over defence tax hike

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida during a plenary session of the upper house of Parliament in Tokyo, on Jan 27, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO – Japanese voters want an election before any hike in taxes to fund Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s plans for a record increase in defence spending and providing more support for families with children, according to two polls.

In the poll carried out by the Nikkei newspaper from Jan 27 to Jan 29, about 63 per cent of respondents said Mr Kishida should go to the people ahead of any increase in the tax burden.

The other survey, conducted by Kyodo News between Jan 28 and Jan 29, saw 77 per cent of respondents saying the same thing.

After pledging an unprecedented 60 per cent hike in defence spending over five years and a doubling in outlays aimed at encouraging people to have children, Mr Kishida faces weeks of quizzing in parliamentary committees starting on Monday over where the deeply indebted country will find the funds. 

Any increase in taxes will be particularly unwelcome.

That is because the highest inflation in 40 years has hit household budgets, and few expect pay rises to outstrip the pace of rising prices. 

While he need not hold a general election for more than two years, the unpopular premier can opt to go to the public early in a bid to re-establish his mandate, with the opposition too fragmented to pose a serious challenge.

Support for his Cabinet was little changed at 33.4 per cent in the Kyodo survey and 39 per cent in the Nikkei poll.

Most of the respondents to the Kyodo poll said they approved of plans to increase spending on children in one of the world’s most aged countries.

However, almost 64 per cent of respondents said they opposed a corresponding tax hike.

While Mr Kishida has called on employers to raise wages at a rate above inflation, as many as 80 per cent said they did not expect pay hikes on that scale in 2023.

A majority of those polled by the Nikkei said they did not think Mr Kishida’s measures would be effective in tackling the country’s demographic woes. BLOOMBERG

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