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The opposition camp criticized proposed burden-sharing by JR group firms during a Lower House committee meeting Monday and questioned the legitimacy of creating a special tobacco tax as a way to dispose of 27.8 trillion yen in debts left by the defunct Japanese National Railways.

Government-sponsored bills are designed to transfer the 23.5 trillion yen debt currently held by JNR Settlements Corp. to the general account, while the remaining 4.3 trillion yen in pension-related expenses will be transferred to Japan Railway Construction Public Corp.

The opposition camp criticized moves to push the burden of pension-related expenses onto the seven JR group companies as proposed in the bills, saying that the pension issue was settled in 1996.

Ritsuo Hosokawa of the Democratic Party of Japan said the proposal would invite a drop in the value of JR stock and thus bring a decline in revenue because the government holds JR shares. “These negative factors are anticipated. Is there any meaning in having the JR firms share the burden? These bills should be abolished,” Hosokawa said.

The government plans to repay the debt and the pension expenses by such measures as creating a special tobacco tax, transferring funds from the postal savings special account and slashing government expenses.

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