October 21, 2017
TOKYO- One of the key issues for Sunday's House of Representatives election is whether the consumption tax rate, which stands at 8 pct, should be raised to 10 pct in two years as planned.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party says that the tax should be raised and that tuition-free education for preschoolers and other measures should be funded from part of the expected revenue, while opposition parties demand a freeze on the hike.
What are the expectations of mothers with small children, who would benefit from free education, and retailers, who would likely see their sales affected if the tax is raised?
A housewife in her 30s living in the central Japan city of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, draws pictures on events in her daily life and posts them on a blog, operated under the pseudonym of Ema Naka. This is very popular, with over 20,000 registered readers.
Naka, who has a daughter aged 6 and a son aged 3, welcomed the proposed free education, saying she feels "grateful."
"The less the burden is, the better," she said.
But she doubts whether free education will happen.
"I just don't know if things will work out fine when the government has huge debts," Naka said.
"It's sad if you can't get the education you want," she said, adding that enabling education for every preschooler will be a top issue when she decides who she will vote for.
Aki Fukoin, leader of a parents' group discussing issues related to nurseries, said, "Tuition-free education is good, but before that, I want the government to open more good nurseries so that every child can be enrolled."
"Having enough nursery teachers is also important," Fukoin said.
In the Togoshi Ginza shopping district of Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, where about 400 shops are located, a couple who run a shop selling sundry goods do not want the tax hike, planned for October 2019.
When the consumption tax was increased from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014, the number of customers fell at the shop, which has a history of more than 60 years, they said.
"We'll have no choice but to cut prices and profit margins" if the tax is raised, one of them said.
But they showed understanding for the proposal to spend some of the expected tax revenue on measures for child-rearing generations.
Issues related to the shrinking number of babies "need to be solved," one of the couple said. "Money should go to younger people."
Shigeko Sugisaki, 82, who helps at a shop selling Japanese confectioneries called Togoshi Ginza Aoyagi, is also negative about the planned tax increase.
"It's not the time," she said. "Large companies would do fine, but I'm not sure what will happen to self-employed businesses," Sugisaki said.
Kaoru Hoshino, the 62-year-old owner of a bakery in the district, was scathing about the effects of Abenomics, or Abe's economic policy mix. "I think it made things better for rich people," Hoshino said. Jiji Press
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