Abe squares off with opposition leaders ahead of Upper House election
Japan Times -- Jul 04
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a debate with opposition leaders on Wednesday that he will go ahead with the planned sales tax hike in October but vehemently denied there will be further increases while he remains in power.

Although rumors that Abe might postpone the tax hike have died down, with an Upper House election in less than three weeks, questions have been raised over whether there might be further tax hikes.

At the debate, where leaders of major political parties faced off in Tokyo, Abe gave a firm no to this scenario.

“The Abe administration is not at all considering raising the tax rate (over 10 percent),” he told a moderator when asked whether there may be another hike given the high costs of social welfare programs.

A good portion of the two-hour debate at the Japan National Press Club was spent discussing Japan’s pension system, a recent hot topic following outrage over a controversial Financial Services Agency report that estimated ¥20 million in savings might be needed to sustain post-retirement lives for average elderly pensioners.

Some opposition leaders questioned the efficacy of the “macroeconomic slide” system, which was introduced as part of a 2004 pension reform to reduce payout levels as the size of the working-age population falls and average life expectancy increases.

Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, insisted the macroeconomic slide will ultimately reduce the pension payment standards to a critically low level.

Abe, however, defended the framework, saying there is no “magic” that would automatically increase payouts and asserting that without it, Japan will be “depleted of pension reserves.”

News source: Japan Times
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