Ruling bloc rams ’09 budget through Diet

by Kazuaki Nagata

The ruling bloc enacted the ¥88 trillion fiscal 2009 budget, the biggest ever, and related bills by using its huge majority to ram them through the more powerful Lower House Friday, after they had been earlier rejected by the opposition-controlled Upper House.

The fiscal 2009 budget is 6.6 percent bigger than the initial budget for fiscal 2008, due to the massive increase in government spending to deal with the rapidly deteriorating economy.

Prime Minister Taro Aso had repeatedly said quick enactment of the budget was crucial to regenerate the economy, which is mired in the worst recession since the war.

With the successful enactment of the budget before the Tuesday end of the fiscal year, the Aso Cabinet will immediately start work on drafting an extra budget for fiscal 2009 to further stimulate the economy.

The extra budget is expected to be submitted to the Diet around the beginning of May, and after that Aso is likely to decide when to dissolve the Lower House and call an election, which must be held by fall.

On Friday, the Upper House initially rejected the budget, after which a joint committee of the two chambers convened to reach agreement over the main government budget, but that ended in stalemate.

Budget-related bills were also rammed through the Lower House by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition by an override vote Friday evening .

The ¥88 trillion fiscal 2009 budget includes a ¥77.5 billion social security-related measure and tax cuts for individuals with new housing loans.

The budget will also lower the corporate tax for small and midsize business from 22 percent to 18 percent.

However, Naoto Kan, the Democratic Party of Japan’s deputy leader, said Thursday the budget is insufficient for the economic downturn.