Japan’s Kishida Says Election to Come Before Tax Hike for Defense

American Age Official

(Bloomberg) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he expected the next general election to come before a possible hike in taxes that has met resistance from the public and is intended to fund his unprecedented expansion of defense spending.

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“We will be asking the people to take on an extra burden starting at an appropriate time between 2024 and 2027,” Kishida said in an interview with satellite broadcaster BS TBS late Tuesday. “We are going to decide on the start date, but I think there will be an election before then.”

Kishida has unveiled plans for a 60% increase in defense spending over five years after many in Japan have been spooked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising tensions around Taiwan and developments with North Korea’s missile program. The move marks a historic change for a country with a pacifist constitution that has capped its military spending at about 1% of gross domestic product for decades.

Pacifist Japan Embraces Strong Military in World of Threats

While surveys show a majority of voters want more spent on defense, the idea of a tax hike to fund the expansion is unpopular — especially at a time when the worst inflation in 40 years is hurting household budgets. A poll published by the Sankei newspaper and broadcaster FNN this month found almost 70% opposed to a tax increase. Support for the cabinet has hit its lowest since Kishida took office more than a year ago in several polls.

Though the four-year lower house term doesn’t end until October 2025, and the opposition is in disarray, sagging approval ratings make it more difficult for Kishida to control his party and push policy pledges through parliament.

The premier has also faced opposition to the tax from within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Party policy chief Koichi Hagiuda told broadcaster FNN on Sunday that the matter should be taken to the electorate.

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