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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
DPJ won't hike tax, Okada says
By ALEX MARTIN
The consumption tax would likely not be raised for the next four years if the Democratic Party of Japan wins the upcoming general election, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada declared in an interview Tuesday.
Okada also reiterated his pledge to increase the transparency of political funding sources ahead of the Lower House election to be held by fall.
During a group interview with reporters, Okada did not rule out discussing a possible hike of the unpopular consumption tax over the long run but emphasized that cutting unnecessary budget allocations would be the top priority of a DPJ-led government.
Okada was appointed secretary general after losing a May 16 election to Yukio Hatoyama for the DPJ's top post. Okada has previously advocated discussing raising the consumption tax to cover the ballooning costs of the national pension system, in contrast to Hatoyama, who dismisses the need for such talks for the time being.
"We won't raise the consumption tax for four years (after winning the election). It's the ruling party that's vague on this issue," Okada said.
The DPJ has maintained that ¥20 trillion can be trimmed from the government's ¥207 trillion general account and special accounts budgets, a stance the ruling parties have criticized as irresponsible and lacking in specifics regarding where the cuts can be made.
Okada admitted that the party should be more specific.
"I believe we need to submit detailed accounts of the ¥20 trillion," Okada said, though he acknowledged that won't be easy.
"Even if not everything is accounted for at this point, we will fund policies depending on their level of importance" over a period of several years, he said.
Turning his attention to former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa's accountability in the political fundraising scandal that cost him his job as party president, Okada repeated his previous assertion that the issue is strictly a personal matter for Ozawa.
The DPJ, he said, has to wait for a report from a third-party panel of experts investigating the case before deciding how to respond to the media and prosecutors.
"The results (from the panel) should be out pretty soon," he said.
Okada declined to give a target figure for the number of Diet seats the largest opposition party is aiming to gain in the Lower House election. The top priority, he said, is to win the election — no matter with a single-party majority or in tandem with other opposition parties.
"There's no point in giving specific numbers at this point," he said.
Okada also said it is too soon to tell which issues will emerge as the main points of contention during the campaign.
"These things should not be rushed," he said.
Okada, a former trade ministry bureaucrat who led the DPJ to a 50-seat win in the Upper House in 2004, is known as a "policy fundamentalist" who sticks to party rules. Also an outspoken environmentalist, he is a proponent of a bill to set a midterm target for Japan to cut carbon emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels.