Japan PM’s advisers propose steps to spur consumption

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Tokyo / Reuters

Influential members of Japan’s top economic advisory panel recommended the government take additional measures to boost consumer spending as a looming recession forces Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to roll out more pro-growth policies.
The four private-sector members of the Council for Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP) also urged the government to accelerate its plans to raise the minimum wage and narrow the pay gap between regular and contract employees doing the same work.
The private-sector members made the proposal at a CEFP meeting on Monday and it will form the basis of the government’s annual policy platform, to be drafted by mid-year.
Japan will host a Group of Seven summit on May 26-27 and Abe wants to use the event to promote stimulus that strengthens domestic demand and call on other nations to use fiscal spending to stimulate global growth.
The private-sector members on the CEFP also proposed more to support families raising children, increase female participation in the workforce and raise productivity.
However, most of the recommendations were similar to policies the government has already floated or put in place, which could raise concerns that Abe’s economic agenda is short of new ideas.
Abe is under pressure to take steps to bolster consumer spending before an increase in the national sales tax planned for next year, but there are signs Abe could delay that hike for a second time.
Crafting new economic policies has also become more urgent, because election for the upper house of Japan’s parliament will take place in July.
Abe raised the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in April 2014. The move hit consumers hard, leading to a recession and forcing him to delay by 18 months, until April 2017, the planned second hike to 10 percent.
The advisers include Sadayuki Sakakibara, head of Japan’s biggest business lobby Keidanren, and prominent economist Susumu Takahashi. While the proposals will spark panel debate, it is unclear whether they will be reflected in the government’s policy platform.

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