TOKYO, April 18 (Reuters) - About 70 percent of Japanese voters would approve of a tax hike to help massive rebuilding after last month’s earthquake and tsunami, a poll by the Nikkei business daily showed on Monday, as concerns loom over Japan’s efforts to rein in its debt.
Nearly 70 percent also said unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan should be replaced, and 70 percent said the government’s response to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, crippled by the disaster, was not acceptable.
The government hopes to avoid issuing new bonds to fund an initial emergency budget, expected to be worth about 4 trillion yen ($48 billion), due to be compiled this month.
But bond issuance is likely for subsequent extra budgets and markets are worried that post-quake rebuilding may hamper Japan’s efforts to rein in its debt at twice the size of the $5 trillion economy.
In the Nikkei survey, 38 percent said a tax rise is necessary to finance reconstruction, while 31 percent said both a tax hike and bond issuance are needed. Thirteen percent said more only bonds were needed.
Similarly, a Mainichi newspaper poll found that 58 percent of respondents approved of raising taxes to fund reconstruction, with 33 percent opposed.
Secretary-General of the ruling Democrats, Katsuya Okada, said on Sunday that the country must up taxes to repay government bonds issued for reconstruction.
The cost of material damages alone from the March 11 quake and tsunami has been estimated at $300 billion, making it the world’s most costly natural disaster, and Kan had sought a grand coalition to help enact bills to pay for reconstruction.
Support for Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government stood at 27 percent, up five points from February, in the Nikkei poll.
Sixty percent in the Nikkei survey supported the idea of Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan teaming with the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), while 27 percent opposed this. The Mainichi poll showed a similar result.
The LDP has rejected the idea of a coalition and called for Kan to resign. The DPJ controls parliament’s lower house but needs opposition help to pass bills because it lacks a majority in the upper chamber, which can block legislation.
Analysts say that Kan, who took office as Japan’s fifth leader since 2006 last June, is unlikely to resign readily, while opposition parties could be criticised if they try to take disaster budgets hostage in a political battle.
The LDP led the Democrats with voter support. In the Nikkei poll, 34 percent supported the LDP against 24 percent that backed the Democratic Party.
Most voters said Kan has failed to show leadership in dealing with the crisis. In the Mainichi survey, 58 percent said they do not trust government information on the atomic accident, while about a third said they believe what the government says.
Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Sunday it aims to stabilise the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in six to nine months, setting a timeframe to bring the crisis under control. ($1 = 83.130 Japanese Yen) (Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Joseph Radford)