Extra budget clears committee vote

The 2.67 trillion yen supplementary budget for fiscal 1996 got the green light Jan. 29 from the House of Representatives Budget Committee after the main opposition parties failed to delay a vote on the plan.While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its ally the Social Democratic Party, and 21st Century, a small parliamentary group, voted in favor of the government-proposed budget, Shinshinto, the Democratic Party of Japan and the recently established Taiyo Party boycotted the vote. The extra budget package was to go to a plenary session vote of the Lower House later in the day where it was expected to be approved, given the combined majority of the LDP and SDP in the chamber. The three opposition parties refused early Jan. 29 to take part in the committee’s final day of examining the extra budget plan after the LDP snubbed their demands to curtail the expenditures outlined in the extra budget.During a meeting of Diet affairs heads from the LDP and the three opposition parties on Jan. 28, the three opposition parties reiterated their demand that the planned outlay of 647 billion yen for public works projects be cut in half. They said such an outlay would only hurt the nation’s fiscal situation, given Japan’s massive amount of fiscal debts. Although the LDP-led government is calling the planned public works projects “disaster prevention measures,” the schemes are nothing more than political patronage, the opposition camp claimed. The three parties also demanded that the distribution of 140 billion yen in subsidies to the government-funded Housing Urban Development Corp. be scrapped along with a review of the planned 310 billion yen outlay to help farmers cope with trade liberalization.Kansei Nakano, Diet affairs chief from Shinshinto, the largest opposition party, told a news conference that the LDP is ignoring the three parties’ “constructive, serious” requests to have the supplementary budget package revised. Kanezo Muraoka, the LDP’s Diet affairs chief, said voting in the Lower House’s plenary session would be held as scheduled later in the day, with or without the participation of the three opposition parties.After the supplementary budget is endorsed by the Lower House, the plan will be sent to the Upper House for deliberation. The Upper House is expected to approve the package by the end of this week.