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Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima unveiled a 6.675 trillion yen budget draft for fiscal 1998 Thursday that may finally cure the huge budget shortfall of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.While the shortfall has been covered with special fiscal measures since 1990, the austere general account budget represents a 0.3 percent decrease from fiscal 1997, which ends March 31. The budgetary shortfall, which peaked in 1993 at 490 billion yen, had previously been projected to reach 310 billion yen for fiscal 1998.But the metropolitan government slashed a number of budgetary allocations after projects were reviewed to eliminate the shortfall in the 1998 draft, which includes “investment expenditures” for construction of urban infrastructures such as roads, officials said.Investment expenditures were cut 10 percent from the previous year to 1.05 trillion yen in the draft, marking a return to levels of 10 years ago, before expenditures skyrocketed amid bubble economy euphoria. Aoshima apparently was under pressure from the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to slash spending on welfare projects, including those for senior citizens.Although the governor pledged to cut budgets for some welfare programs, including free “silver pass” transportation tickets for the elderly and subsidies for the mentally disabled, these controversial appropriations have been left almost intact in the draft.Government officials have repeatedly said they were determined to “review all projects without leaving any sanctuaries” to help the city recover from its current financial crisis. Thus the failure to cut into the symbolic silver pass means the government has already bowed to the assembly.

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