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Budget requests for the fiscal 1998 general account budget totaled 80.554 trillion yen, up 4.1 percent from the current budget, the Finance Ministry reported to the Cabinet on Sept. 9.

The figure was a formal tally of requests submitted by individual ministries and agencies by the Aug. 31 deadline, and the ministry has begun the process of screening the demands. Although demands for general expenditures, the policy-related portion of the budget, were 0.7 percent less than the current year’s level of 45.11 trillion yen, the total figure grew due to the increased costs of servicing debts and tax grants to local governments.

The figures did not include outlays that are expected in connection with settling the massive debts left behind after the privatization of the Japanese National Railways Co. and the handling of the outstanding debts in the National Forest Services special account. Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said the ministry would attempt to reduce the figures by the time the budget is drafted in December so as to keep the nation on the road to fiscal reconsolidation. He added that he hopes the Transport Ministry will consider measures to deal with the JNR debts that would not leave a great fiscal burden on future generations.

Meanwhile, requests for the general Fiscal Investment and Loan Program, which is often dubbed the second budget, came to 37.447 trillion yen, 4.8 percent lower than the current year.

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