A close aide to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has hinted at the possibility of delaying a consumption tax hike scheduled for October.
The government is preparing to increase the tax from 8 to 10 percent on October 1, but comments by the Liberal Democratic Party's Acting Secretary General, Koichi Hagiuda, have cast doubt on that plan.
Hagiuda told a net-cast program on Thursday that the Japanese economy is weakening slightly. He said the timing of the tax increase will depend on the results of the Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan" survey of business sentiment. The next report is due out in July.
Hagiuda said if the survey shows that executives feel a sense of danger, the government won't "be able to take everyone to the edge of a cliff."
He said if the tax hike derails Japan's economic recovery, then there will inevitably be questions about the point of implementing it.
Hagiuda said if the government does decide on a delay, it will need to seek a public mandate for that.
For now, it is sticking to the position that the tax will go up in October, barring an event on the scale of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Some global institutions say the Japanese government needs to raise the tax to restore its fiscal health. OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria told NHK earlier this week that Japan should raise the tax to more than 20 percent to tackle the country's ballooning debt.