01/14/2011, 00.00
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Tokyo, government reshuffle to support economy and public spending

The real change is in the new minister for the economy, Kaoru Yosano, a former conservative minister. He supports increasing consumer tax to cover the fiscal budget for 2011. Since 2000, spending on social welfare and healthcare has grown by 60% in Japan due to an aging population. A push for the TTP, a free trade area among nine countries in the Pacific.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced a reshuffle of his center-left government, to boost economic growth and reduce debt.

The new government spokesman, Yukio Edan, outlined the changes. The key ministries - foreign, defence and finance - have remained unchanged. The real novelty lies in the introduction of Kaoru Yosano, former finance minister in the last Conservative government. He is expected to cover the Ministry of Economy. Yosano, 72, is an avid supporter of an increase in consumer taxes. Kan plans to increase consumer tax by 5% to achieve a budget of 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars in the next fiscal year.

The unpopular choice is necessary because public debt has reached about 200% of GDP and is likely to grow even more given the aging of the Japanese population and rising costs in health care and assistance, which since 2000 has undergone a 60% increase.

In the reshuffle, the former spokesman Yoshito Sengoku, former transport minister Sumio Mabuchi, former Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida, former President of the Security Tomiko Okazaki have all been removed.

The opposition had threatened to boycott the budget debate if Sengoku and Mabuchi had remained in government. The right-wing parties criticize them for having mishandled the crisis with China, after a maritime accident to the Senkaku Islands, claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.

The government of Naoto Kan lasted seven months and this is the second reshuffle since last June.

Yosano has replaced Banro Kaieda, who has became Minister of Commerce. Kaieda, an economist, is a supporter of free trade zones. Tokyo is planning to enter a free trade area, the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), commissioned by the United States and discussed by eight other nations. According to trading companies, Japan should join the TTP, but farmers fear that the importation of products at cheaper prices could ruin them.
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