If you think Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first cabinet member to publicly say the sales tax would be raised next year, think again.
In an awkwardly worded message to his supporters on Facebook, economy minister Akira Amari let slip ahead of time that Mr. Abe would announce the raising of the tax on Tuesday.
While Mr. Amari’s message took a hypothetical tone at times in discussing the impact of a sales tax hike on Japan’s economy, the opening line went a step further.
“Today, the premier will take the decision to raise the sales tax rate and announce a stimulus package aimed at strongly supporting the economy-boosting drive of Abenomics,” Mr. Amari told his Facebook followers at 12:52 p.m. Tuesday. Some sites showed the posting of the message was even earlier, at midnight on Monday.
Mr. Abe said he had decided to go ahead with the tax hike at around 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, during comments – open to the media – at the end of a meeting with officials from his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Abe had said he would make a final decision on the tax increase after discussing the matter with the party officials. As the meeting started around 13:00, that meant Mr. Abe hadn’t officially made up his mind until then.
Netizens immediately spotted Mr. Amari’s jumping of the gun.
User Ikukosakamoto tweeted “How come Mr. Amari made the sales tax announcement ahead of the premier?” The tweet also called into question whether Facebook was a suitable medium for an announcement of such importance.
Twitter account holder ikanzeyov2 also noted that “Mr. Amari made the announcement before the premier” in a tweet.
Mr. Amari is arguably the prime minister’s main point man. He has raised the significance of the economy minister portfolio while handling Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and regularly representing the face of the administration on TV talk shows.
A hard, no-nonsense talker behind closed doors, he can turn on the charm when in the public eye and has a knack for using colorful, entertaining language without overstepping the mark into gaffe-prone territory. His witty remarks are playfully known as Amarisms.
Had his message on Tuesday been more widely reported it might have caused him more trouble. Still, it remains unclear why Mr. Amari chose to have the message posted ahead of the announcement.
Mr. Amari’s secretary said the lawmaker usually tells his staff what to put online through either written or verbal instructions, and that it is down to his secretaries to post content. It is unclear when exactly Mr. Amari prepared the text for the message, as he could not be reached for comment. He is currently in Indonesia for TPP negotiations.