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Kishida says policies necessary; doesn’t care what names he’s called

Tokyo, November 03 2023, The Europe Today: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday that he will proceed with policies that he believes are necessary, even though many netizens have started calling him “tax hike glasses” on social media.

The bespectacled Kishida — known as a dovish moderate within the conservative Liberal Democratic Party — has pledged to raise taxes within the next few years, such as those on companies, to cover an envisioned increase in the defense budget, leading him to be given the derogatory nickname.

“I do not care what you call me,” Kishida said after his cabinet endorsed new economic stimulus steps. “I will do what I believe should be done to shore up the economy, bolster defense capabilities, enhance child care support and promote energy policies.”

“I want to value the attitude of making decisions on what I believe should be done and carrying out necessary policies, while carefully planning the order and method of doing things,” he said at a press conference.

The Kishida administration has promised to conduct tax hikes to finance its plan to almost double Japan’s annual defense spending to around 2 percent of gross domestic product over the next five years, on par with members of NATO.

Despite the nickname, on Thursday, Kishida’s government approved an economic package of more than 17 trillion yen to help households hit by inflation with one-off tax reductions and chart a growth path for the economy beyond the cost-of-living crisis.

But Kishida, whose support rates have plunged to their lowest levels since he took office in 2021, has committed to boosting spending on child care to tackle Japan’s rapidly declining birthrate, fanning speculation that he may impose more burdens on the public.

“Now is the time to focus on” propping up the economy, Kishida said, adding his administration will consider when to implement measures to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities after the latest steps accelerate economic expansion.

Late last week, Kishida said his government will not hike taxes for the defense budget at least in the next fiscal year from April, given the hardships people currently face as the result of higher prices without adequate wage growth.