New expert panel to assess impact of Japan's planned sales tax hike

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed the government Thursday to launch a panel of experts to assess the possible impact on the Japanese economy of the planned sales tax hike next April, officials said.

Amid fears the consumption tax increase could suppress the nascent economic recovery in the country, Abe will consult with the panel before deciding this fall whether to raise the tax rate from the current 5 percent to 8 percent in April as legislated last year.

Under the legislation, Tokyo also plans to raise the rate to 10 percent in October 2015.

Members of the panel include economic ministers, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and corporate executives from another government panel on economic and fiscal policies. They will conclude discussions as early as later this month, the officials said.