Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said he would postpone a sales tax increase planned for April 2017 amid sluggish consumer spending.

The tax hike to 10 per cent from 8 per cent was put off until October 2019, Abe said at a news conference.

"We decided to postpone the sales tax increase, which could hurt domestic demand," the premier said.

Japan's consumer spending has been weak especially since Abe's government raised the sales tax to 8 per cent from 5 per cent in April 2014 despite strong public opposition.

The second hike was first set for October 2015, but Abe decided to postpone it due to a slump in consumer spending after the first hike.

Household spending fell 2.9 per cent in 2014 and declined 2.3 per cent in 2015.

Abe said the government needs to avoid taking an economic risk amid the depressed state of emerging economies. 

"Emerging economies such as China have been flagging," he said. 

Abe's announcement came before elections for the House of Councillors, the upper legislative chamber, which he said Wednesday would be held on July 10. 

The opposition has stepped up its criticism of Abe’s government, in particular on the economy. The postponement of the hike showed the failure of Abe’s economic policy, said Katsuya Okada, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party.

The opposition camp submitted a no-confidence motion in the powerful lower house on Tuesday. It was voted down by Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito.

Latest news

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

100th anniversary of rescuing starving children marked

A special ceremony was held in Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarian undertakings in the history of the Croatian people which saved children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from famine in the last two years of World War I.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.