Lower House expected to OK fiscal 2003 budget

The House of Representatives was set Monday night to endorse an 81.79 trillion yen budget for fiscal 2003. The move would ensure the budget’s enactment in time for the April 1 start of the new fiscal year.

The spending package was first to be put to a vote in the Lower House Budget Committee in the evening, where it was expected to be backed by the ruling coalition parties.

Once the budget clears the full Lower House, it will be sent to the House of Councilors for further deliberation.

Its anticipated passage through the lower chamber, however, means that the budget will be automatically enacted after 30 days, even if the upper chamber fails to act.

The budget is 0.7 percent bigger than the initial budget for fiscal 2002, marking the first time in three years that the general-account budget has been bigger than in the previous year.

It includes 47.59 trillion yen in general expenditures that cover key government operations, an increase of 0.1 percent from the previous year and the first expansion in policy-related expenditures in two years.

Funds for key policy programs, including public works, have been slashed.

But rising obligatory costs, such as social security, have pushed up the total amounts.

Japan will sink deeper into debt to finance its spending.

According to the budget, the government will raise new bond issuances to 36.45 trillion yen.

This amount is the highest ever figure for an initial budget and is up 21.5 percent from the 30 trillion yen cap once advocated by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as a means of controlling the nation’s ballooning debt.

Jumping the gun?

Senior government officials on Monday rejected calls within the ruling parties for a supplementary budget for fiscal 2003.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference that discussing an extra budget before the enactment of the main budget makes no sense.

Vice Finance Minister Masakazu Hayashi meanwhile said the Finance Ministry has been doing everything it can within the 2003 budget and its taxation policies.