Ruling bloc submits extra budget bill to Diet

by Kazuaki Nagata

The government submitted to the Diet Monday the fiscal 2009 extra budget bill, which is expected to become the main focus of confrontation between the ruling bloc and opposition parties as the ordinary Diet session nears its end.

Although the fiscal 2009 budget cleared the Diet only a month ago, Prime Minister Taro Aso ordered the extra budget to be drafted to counter the deepening recession.

The government has taken the lead in attempting to boost the economy with a total of ¥75 trillion worth of stimulus packages approved since last year, but the economy continues to deteriorate at a fast rate, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said in a speech at the Lower House plenary session.

“Due to the global recession, export and output have decreased considerably and the employment situation is rapidly becoming worse . . . it can be said our nation is facing an economic crisis,” Yosano told the Diet.

The ¥14.7 trillion extra budget, the largest ever, includes ¥1.2 trillion for employment measures, ¥3 trillion for financing steps and ¥2 trillion for health and child-rearing assistance, including annual benefits of ¥36,000 for children aged 3 to 5.

The budget is partially financed by new state bond issuances worth about ¥10 trillion, taking the total amount of new bonds to be issued to more than ¥40 trillion, also a record amount.

The extra budget bill could also have political ramifications, as Aso has threatened to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election if the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc faces resistance from the opposition.

With the popularity of the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, waning due to party chief Ichiro Ozawa’s links to a shady donations scandal, Aso has seen his ratings rise.

“Prime Minister Aso said if we, the DPJ, resist, he would call an election. The election is something we have long been waiting for, so it makes us think that we should resist. But it is not about resisting. It’s about having a thorough discussion,” DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said Friday.

While the ruling camp hopes to swiftly pass the budget bill, the DPJ opposes it, arguing the extra budget is just a temporary stimulus and will not solve the economy’s fundamental problems.

“Unfortunately, we cannot cooperate with such a budget” that was arranged by just following the policies of ministry bureaucrats, said Hatoyama, adding the DPJ will not intentionally put off deliberations.