Japan PM said to replace 5 ministers to win tax support
TOKYO, June 4 — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda plans to replace five cabinet ministers today, Japanese media reported, as he attempts to win the support of the biggest opposition party for his plan to double Japan's sales tax rate.
By removing the ministers, who are seen as under-performing, Noda hopes to persuade the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to negotiate over the tax bills. He needs opposition support for the bills to pass through a divided parliament.
The tax hike is seen as an essential part of efforts needed to curb Japan's snowballing public debt. Japan's public debt to GDP ratio is the largest among industrialised nations and ratings agency Fitch cut its credit rating last month, citing scant progress in coping with swelling social security costs.
Noda will replace defence minister Naoki Tanaka and transport minister Takeshi Maeda, who were both censured in April by the opposition-dominated upper house of parliament, along with three others who have faced criticism, Japanese media reported.
Banking minister Shozaburo Jimi, who heads a small coalition partner but whose ability has been questioned in parliament, will be replaced by Tadahiro Matsushita, vice minister for reconstruction after the 2011 earthquake, media reported.
Farm minister Michihiko Kano will also be replaced. He has been connected with a Chinese diplomat who is suspected of espionage.
Noda is increasing efforts to narrow the gap with the opposition, and at the same time struggling to unite his own Democratic Party after a second round of talks in a week with the party's power broker, Ichiro Ozawa, fell apart yesterday.
Noda said yesterday he would reshuffle the cabinet following his talks with Ozawa.
Without the votes from a group of lawmakers loyal to Ozawa, the Democratic Party's biggest faction, Noda needs opposition help to pass the bills through the lower and upper houses of parliament.
Noda is scheduled to hold a news conference later today.
A former finance minister, Noda has staked his career on the tax hike plan, pledging to force a vote in the current session of parliament that ends on June 21. — Reuters