Budget ax may fall on defense layout

The government will review its plan to spend 25.1 trillion yen on defense-related programs between fiscal 1996 and 2000 in an effort to rebuild the nation’s debt-stricken fiscal health, the government’s top spokesman said Feb. 27.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama said at a regular news conference that the government’s various medium-term spending programs, such as defense and public-works programs, have been given Cabinet approval. But Kajiyama added that a plan by both the central and local governments to reduce annual budget deficits to 3 percent of gross domestic product from the current 6 percent to 7 percent by fiscal 2005 “comes as the top priority.”

The plan was endorsed by the Cabinet in December.

Of the government’s proposed 77.39 trillion yen budget for fiscal 1997, 4.94 trillion yen is allocated for defense-related expenses, up 2.1 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year through March 31. To achieve the self-imposed target for deficit cuts, the government may lengthen the defense buildup program to more than five years to reduce the budgetary burden for each year, Kajiyama said.

The present defense program, adopted in December 1995, calls on the government to make a review in fiscal 1998 in accordance with any changes in international and domestic situations. But Kajiyama indirectly said that the review should be made before fiscal 1998, stressing the need to swiftly implement fiscal reform.