(Tokyo Shimbun: March 8, 2016 – p. 6)
Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on Mar. 7:
Consumption tax hike
Michitaro Watanabe (independent): If you were to keep the consumption tax increase scheduled for April next year on hold, would there be a time limit for doing so?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: I think your question is whether there will be time to do so if something comparable to the Lehman Shock occurs in January, February, or March 2017. The economy is a living thing. It would be meaningless if the very foundation of the economy collapses. We will deal with situations like that appropriately.
Watanabe: If you keep the tax increase on hold, will you seek a verdict from the people?
Abe: I have no plan at all (to dissolve the House of Representatives).
Takeyuki Watanabe (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): We hope that you will exercise leadership.
Abe: The main issue is how to deal with the present state of the world economy. As the host country, Japan will engage the G7 leaders in in-depth discussions and send out clear messages that will contribute to sustainable, vigorous growth of the world economy.
Economic stimulation measures
Tsutomu Yamazaki (LDP): Will economic revitalization be possible?
Abe: While the world economy is indeed showing signs of weakness, it is expected to recover slowly, backed by economic recovery in the Western countries. The important thing for the Japanese economy is to end deflation. Since companies are making record profits, it is important to increase wages and capital investment to induce a virtuous economic cycle.
Teruhiko Mashiko (Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ]): Will it be necessary to implement additional economic stimulation measures?
Abe: We need to watch the economic situation closely. Enacting the FY16 budget at an early date will be the best way to stimulate the economy. I have no plans at all to compile a supplementary budget at this point.
Kenzo Fujisue (DPJ): What do you think of the amendment of Article 9?
Abe: This is still far from enjoying the broad understanding and support of the people.
Tomoko Kami (Japanese Communist Party): The people are anxious about the TPP.
Abe: We were able to obtain exemption from tariff abolition for around 20% of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products, particularly those in the five sensitive sectors. The best results for national interest were achieved at the negotiations. We will dispel the anxiety of motivated farmers and take all possible measures to enable them to engage in farming with hope. (Abridged)