Japan’s PM Noda Asks Fiscal Hawk Okada to Be DPM

Japan’s prime minister, faced with sinking popularity rates and hostile opposition, has asked ruling party heavyweight Katsuya Okada, a fiscal hawk, to become his deputy to oversee tax and social security reform, domestic media reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda hopes that drafting Okada, who has held key government and party posts in the past, would boost the government’s chances of pushing through an increase in Japan’s 5 percent sales tax to fund swelling social welfare costs, the Asahi and other major newspapers said.

The government plans to submit bills by March to double theĀ  sales tax in two stages by 2015, but their passage is uncertain as opposition parties can use their control of parliament’s upper house to block legislation.

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Pressure mounts on Japan PM to quit

Pressure mounted on Sunday for unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan to step down soon and even a senior member of his own party warned the lameduck leader not to stay in office much longer.

Kan’s early departure would ease the way for a coalition with the opposition that could enact a bill enabling the government to issue more debt to fund this year’s $1 trillion budget and pass an extra budget to pay for rebuilding the region devastated by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

But it is far from clear whether a temporary and likely unwieldy grouping could tackle longer term problems such as Japan’s massive public debt, already twice the $5 trillion economy.

"He (Kan) has clearly said he will resign … so it is now up to the prime minister to decide (the timing)," DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada said.

"If that is very different from what most people think, I intend, as secretary general, to tell him to quit."

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