Hashimoto wants big extra budget

Despite calls by opposition parties to curb extra state spending, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on Jan. 27 emphasized the need to implement a proposed 2.666 trillion yen supplementary budget for fiscal 1996.Hashimoto made the remarks in the Diet after Hajime Ishii of Shinshinto, the largest opposition party, told the House of Representatives Budget Committee that the proposed extra budget does not fall in line with the original purpose of compiling such a budget. Ishii said the current fiscal law calls for a supplementary budget to be allocated for emergencies, such as coping with a disaster.Shinshinto, together with two other opposition parties, has called for halving the planned 640 billion yen in spending on public works projects. Hashimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party has insisted the projects would make the nation’s infrastructure more sustainable in disasters.In an apparent attempt to show that the government had allotted an unnecessarily large amount of money for public works projects, Yoshito Sengoku, policy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, asked government agencies whether they had used up all their budget for public works projects in fiscal 1995. An official of the Ministry of Construction, which has taken the lion’s share of tax money for public works projects among all government agencies, answered that about 1.44 trillion yen of 8.62 trillion yen allotted for fiscal 1995 was carried forward to fiscal 1996.The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries forwarded about 543 billion yen, or 17.8 percent, of its appropriated 3.03 trillion yen to fiscal 1996, said another official. The two officials did not say how much is likely to be carried forward to fiscal 1997.Sengoku said the ministries do not need new outlays from the extra budget for 1996 to fund further public works projects because they already have a large amount of money on hand. But the two officials said the forwarded public money was not unused but is in fact earmarked for public works projects that have already been planned. They said time-consuming negotiations with some of the landowners involved in the planned construction works have caused the delay in using up the funds.