Abe not weighing snap polls

Tokyo, Feb 20 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday said he was not considering a snap general election this summer to coincide with a scheduled upper house poll.

Abe said he has no intention of delaying a planned increase in the nation’s consumption tax, The Japan Times reported.

Abe said he would raise the levy to 10 percent in April 2017 unless there was a big economic shock on the scale of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, or a major earthquake.

“At this point, it’s not at a Lehman-shock level, but it is necessary to keep carefully monitoring the economy,” he said.

The world’s third-largest economy contracted in the final three months of 2015, with the misery compounded by data that showed exports in January fell the most since 2009.

Wage gains have stagnated, consumer prices are barely rising and households are reluctant to spend. This year, the Topix index has plunged more than 16 percent and the yen has gained against the dollar.

Abe has won three elections on a vow to revive the economy with his Abenomics plan of loose monetary policy, flexible spending and structural reform.

The current economic woes were complicating his calculus on whether to call a lower use election to take advantage of a divided opposition.

Abe backed the Bank of Japan’s new negative interest rate policy, saying it was not the cause of the current market turmoil. He also said that individuals’ deposit rates would not turn negative.

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