The Japanese Parliament has passed the controversial sales tax hike bill a day after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda survived a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet over the proposal.
The consumption tax hike bill, which was already passed in the Lower House where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) enjoys a majority, won the approval of the Upper House on Friday with the support of major Opposition parties.
As many as 188 lawmakers voted in favor of the legislation, while 49 voted against it in the House of Councilors.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi termed the expected outcome as "a historic achievement." It was the "first big step towards fiscal structural reforms," he told reporters.
The passage of the bill is seen as a credit to Noda, who has been committed for it despite yielding to Opposition demands since taking office last September.
Noda says doubling the sales tax rate in two stages to ten percent by 2015 is inevitable to help cut Japan's public debt and to fund rising welfare costs.
The main Opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ally the New Komeito party had agreed with Noda on cooperating to quickly pass the social security and tax reform bills in line with a deal they signed with the DPJ. In return, Noda pledged to dissolve the Lower House of the Diet (Parliament).
Six small Opposition parties, including one led by Ichiro Ozawa, who left the ruling DPJ last month, had submitted on Tuesday a no-confidence motion against Noda's Cabinet in the House of Representatives, but it was rejected by a majority of lawmakers who voted, mostly from DPJ and its coalition partner the People's New Party, after the House debated the motion at a plenary session on Thursday.
Opposition parties look set to intensify their offensive against Noda's Cabinet, whose approval ratings are already low, reports say.
by RTT Staff Writer
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