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Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Gas stations raise prices after fuel levy reimposed

AFP , TOKYO

Japanese gas stations hiked prices one day after Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda?? coalition reimposed an unpopular fuel tax despite objections by the opposition.

The tax, which adds another 瞼25 (US$0.24) per liter to gasoline prices, came back into force on May Day and came under fire in rallies attended by thousands of workers.

??he government imposed a huge tax on people who are already struggling with rising prices of goods,??Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii told a rally of more than 40,000 people in a Tokyo park.

Some gas stations were deserted one day after motorists queued at pumps for last-minute buying at cheaper prices.

One retailer in Tokyo?? Shinbashi business district added 瞼30 in the morning, raising the price to 瞼160 per liter.

??e have far fewer customers today,??said manager Katsuhito Mate. ??e had about 50 percent more people last night.??br />

Prices at the pump had dropped on April 1 after the opposition, which controls the upper house, blocked an extension of the tax.

The levy was introduced in the 1950s, when Japan was still rebuilding from the ravages of war, to raise money for road projects.

The opposition had argued that the tax hurts ordinary people at a time of soaring global oil prices and urged the government instead to streamline spending.

However, the government forced through the tax, saying its elimination would burn a US$25 billion hole each year in the heavily indebted country?? finances.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura had earlier speculated that not many gas stations would raise prices immediately after the bills passed.

??etailers decide on prices at their gas stations by looking at the number of customers and other business points of view,??the top government spokesman said yesterday. ?? cannot question their business judgement.?

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