LDP to review agriculture budget

Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers closely associated with the nation’s agriculture industry agreed on Mar. 18 to review the huge portion of the national budget set aside for helping farmers, in line with the government’s financial reconstruction efforts.

At the top of the agenda is expected to be the review of 6.01 trillion yen in planned expenditures to help rice growers. The outlay was decided in 1994 and is planned to be implemented through 2000 to protect farmers against the partial opening of Japan’s rice market under the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade agreements.

The finance program has drawn increasing criticism from the public, including some farmers, as a waste of tax money because projects implemented with the expenditure have not actually improved the livelihood of farmers. It is often said that the budget appropriation is so large that local governments have struggled to find ways to spend the money.

However, it has been said that reviewing the agriculture budget would be difficult because of the LDP’s great popularity in rural areas. LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato told reporters that such a review can run smoothly only when the opinions of the lawmakers lobbying the industry are respected.