A number of senior lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expressed their support Mar. 14 for a proposal to freeze the salaries of Diet members because of the state of debt-ridden national coffers.

The proposal was made by LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato during a meeting of LDP executives, following a remark the previous day by Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama that freezing wage raises for government officials would be considered part of fiscal reconstruction. Although the amount of tax money that would be saved through the measure would have little effect on reducing the nation’s debts, the lawmakers apparently hope to show their determination to carry out fiscal reconstruction.

Annual salaries for the 752 Diet members in both houses were raised to about 23.99 million yen in fiscal 1996, up about 125,000 yen from a year before. Under law, vice ministers must receive the same salary as Diet members. It is estimated that the balance of long-term debts of the central and local governments will total 521 trillion yen at the end of fiscal 1997, according to the Finance Ministry.

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