Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Bank says Japan should raise tax

AFP, TOKYO

Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor Haruhiko Kuroda has said a government tax-hike plan would not damage the economy, but if it does he “won’t hesitate” to adjust monetary easing.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government wants to increase incrementally a tax on sales over the next two years, however, some economists fear the move could risk derailing Japan’s road to economic recovery.

The plan proposes a 3 percent to 8 percent rise next year, before a further increase to 10 percent in 2015.

“The government has said it will proceed with its fiscal structural reforms. I urge the government to firmly implement the plans,” Kuroda told the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview published yesterday.

He said Japan’s economy “isn’t likely to slow because of the sales tax hike,” but added that if it did: “Monetary policy would be adjusted. I won’t hesitate.”

In April, the BOJ unveiled a multibillion-dollar bond-buying scheme — similar to the US Federal Reserve’s — aimed at kick-starting growth in the limp economy and bringing an end to growth-sapping deflation.

The BOJ’s easing under Kuroda is a key part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy dubbed “Abenomics,” and has been credited with weakening the yen and boosting exports.

However, economists are divided over the merits of the policy, which does not tackle Japan’s massive public debt — a problem the sales tax increase is intended to address. Japan is grappling with a debt that stands at more than double GDP, the highest ratio in the industrialized world.

With the current monetary easing policy of a 2 percent inflation target in two years, “there is no need for additional easing, if the economy moves in accordance with our main scenario,” Kuroda said.

“But the economy is a creature, and there are various risks inside and outside Japan,” such as European sovereign debt crises and the state of the US economy, he said.

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