Aso calls for swift passage of extra budget for steps to ease TPP concern

Kyodo, JIJI

Finance Minister Taro Aso on Monday called for the swift enactment of the fiscal 2015 extra budget, including measures to ease public concerns following the agreement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

“We have to directly link the effects of the TPP to truly revitalizing the economy and regional areas as well as relieve public concerns over their impact,” Aso said in a speech to the Diet, calling for “swift approval” of the supplementary budget.

The ¥3.5 trillion budget, endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet in December, is aimed at improving the global competitiveness of Japanese farmers in the wake of the TPP accord reached in October by Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

The TPP-related spending will cover measures to boost the productivity of Japanese farmers, including farmland consolidation and the region-wide introduction of livestock farming facilities.

The budget, which was submitted to the Diet earlier in the day, is also designed to realize Abe’s key policies, including steps to support child-rearing and prevent people from leaving their jobs to take care of elderly family members.

The measures also include a program to provide ¥30,000 in welfare benefits per head to a total of about 11 million low-income elderly people in an effort to stimulate consumer spending.

“Now is the time to tackle the structural challenge of the low birthrate and aging population,” Aso said, vowing to focus on policies to raise the fertility rate from 1.4 to 1.8 by around 2025 and enhance nursing care services.

The government aims to have the budget enacted early in the regular Diet session, which was convened earlier in the day.

On the state of the economy, Aso said it “has begun to emerge from a deflationary slump due to efforts by the Abe Cabinet.”

“We will consolidate our footing to realize a strong economy, while appropriately responding to downside risks,” he said.

The government will not issue any debt to form the extra budget, instead using tax revenues for the fiscal year, which are expected to top its projection partly due to robust corporate earnings, as well as unspent funds from the previous year’s budget.