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Long live inept government

April 1, 2008

If it hadn’t been on the cards a while, you’d think it was some kind of April Fool. But no, all over Japan, from today, petrol prices are set to fall by about ¥25, meaning that round the corner we’ll be buying at ¥119/litre (about 60p).

Time ran out on Monday for the government to sort out their tabled tax scheme for their 2008 budget, meaning that the “temporary” tax (temporary since 1974) on petrol designed to line the pockets of their mates, the LDP-voting construction companies fund road works, ended at midnight last night without agreement from the upper house on a continuation. The government is likely then to force it through with a second lower house vote, and have the tax reinstated at the end of the month.

The first of May, though, falls right in the middle of Golden Week. Petrol prices are traditionally hiked just before Golden Week, as most of Japan travels for the week’s holiday. Will they dare to hike the price less than a week before sticking the ¥25 tax back on again? And if they do, will the Japanese consumers simply bend over and take it again?

Not all petrol stations were displaying lowered prices this morning however. The argument was that they still had stock left over that they’d bought at the higher taxed price. It even led some commentators to claim that because some petrol stations are lowering the prices, others will be “forced to sell at a loss”. Yeees. And I assume that when the tax gets put back on at the end of the month, they’ll wait until they’ve used all their cheaper stock before putting their prices back up..?

According to Kyodo News –

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda apologized for failing to extend the tax rates beyond their March expiration…

Apologised?! Who on earth to?

and said it is his ‘‘responsibility to minimize the confusion that could occur’’ in local economies and public lives.

The government are rather jittery about an estimated shortfall of 1.7 trillion yen in tax revenue, money that was earmarked for building bridges to uninhabited islands, concreting of areas of natural beauty, and other assorted pork-barrel projects of extortionate cost… oh, sorry, drifted off, meant to say… earmarked for road construction. Yeah, that’s it. ‘Road construction’.

Kyodo goes on to say that with their revenues forecast to be ¥900 billion short,

an increasing number of local governments have already started to freeze some road construction projects.

Is there no end to the good news today?!

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