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The Lower House on Wednesday passed the government-proposed supplementary budget for the current fiscal year and bills to allow for 2 trillion yen in pump-priming income and residence tax cuts.The extra budget and bills were moved the House of Councilors for further action. They are key components in the government’s efforts to get the economy back on track with the least possible effect on its fiscal reconsolidation targets. The voting was basically along party lines.The 1.14 trillion yen supplementary budget paves the way for contract authorization for 1.5 trillion yen worth of public works projects earmarked for fiscal 1998 and additional public works spending of roughly 1 trillion yen. It includes the issuance of more deficit-covering bonds to help finance the special 2 trillion yen worth of tax cuts, which are written out in separate bills.The government of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto sought to take as many economic stimulus steps as possible in the extra fiscal 1997 budget, because the government’s ways and means will be reined in starting in fiscal 1998 by the newly enacted Fiscal Structural Reform Law. Under this law, the government must strive to reduce its fiscal deficit, currently at one of the highest levels in the industrialized world, to no more than 3 percent of gross domestic product by fiscal 2003.By that time it also must stop issuing deficit-financing bonds. But many observers, including some U.S. officials, said these steps may be insufficient to boost the domestic economy and are calling for additional stimulus measures, such as the continuation of tax cuts beyond next year. Hashimoto himself said during committee-level deliberations in the Lower House that it is natural to be flexible and take steps that are in line with the situation at any given period.

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