Aso denies saying he will reject handout

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Taro Aso on Thursday denied reports that he had declared he will not accept ¥12,000 under the government’s cash handout plan.

“I have never declared such a thing at the (Liberal Democratic Party) executive meeting,” Aso said at the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference, “As the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire.

“Someone probably brought up the issue, but the prime minister never declared whether he will receive it or not,” he added.

But one of the LDP lawmakers present at the executive meeting said he heard Aso say he won’t take the money, wondering how the prime minister could deny what he actually said.

“It’s unbelievable for Aso to say that,” the unnamed LDP lawmaker said.

But another party member was more willing to accept Aso’s flip-flopping.

“If Aso denied (this) before the Diet, that’s the end. I’ll forget what I heard” in the executive meeting, the member said.

The Social Democratic Party meanwhile said Thursday that its 12 lawmakers will not accept the cash handouts, SDP Secretary General Yasumasa Shigeno said.

“We have been opposed (to the plan) at Diet debates,” he told reporters after the party’s executive meeting.

However, the SDP will allow its local assembly members to reach their own decisions on whether to accept or decline the handout, according to Shigeno.

Under the ¥2 trillion cash handout plan to stimulate the economy, each individual will receive ¥12,000 and an extra ¥8,000 will be given to people aged 18 or younger or 65 or older. Aso, 68, thus stands to get ¥20,000.

The LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition secured Diet approval for a second supplementary budget needed to finance the plan last week, following fierce exchanges with the opposition. But the Diet has yet to deliberate related bills needed to implement measures in the budget.

Fast handouts urged

Villages in Wakayama Prefecture asked Thursday that the ¥12,000 cash payouts under Prime Minister Taro Aso’s controversial stimulus program be distributed as soon as possible.

Representing smaller municipalities in the prefecture, Mitsugu Okuda, mayor of Kitayama village, presented the request in writing to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

It said the cash handout program is an important policy measure for regional municipalities facing an impoverished economy as well as rapid aging and depopulation.

The document included the signatures of 337 people in Kitayama out of its 509 residents.

The planned ¥2 trillion cash payout is highly unpopular, with a majority of people questioning its effectiveness in stimulating the economy.

The Diet approved the cash handout program in late January. But deliberations on related bills covering how to fund the program have stalled, making it unlikely the cash distribution will be implemented soon.