Opposition slams extra budget as short-term election ploy

by Kazuaki Nagata

Opposition parties took aim Tuesday at the ¥14.7 trillion extra budget for fiscal 2009 that will finance the ruling bloc’s economic stimulus package, calling it a short-term boost to the economy mainly meant to attract voters ahead of the general election that must be held by fall.

Although the government and Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc have been taking steps to mitigate the recession since last year, none has been effective, said Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, as he spoke in the Lower House during deliberations on the bill.

The reason the steps are failing is because “they are taking a completely wrong approach,” he said.

Hatoyama and other opposition party figures said many economic measures are limited in scope and will not enhance public security in the long run.

They cited, for example, the one-time ¥36,000 benefit for children aged between 3 and 5 and the wage hike of nursing care workers over three years.

“Why is this just a one-time thing?” Kensho Sasaki of the Japanese Communist Party asked of the annual benefit for kids. “This is just temporary pork-barrel spending for the election and lacks principle.”

Prime Minister Taro Aso, the LDP president, said the annual ¥36,000 benefit will raise the household income of families with young children and said the government plans to expand the funds for children and improve child-care services.

Opposition party officials also hit Aso’s plan to pave the way for a consumption tax hike, possibly in 2011.