Bills to dispose of 27.8 trillion yen in debts left by the former Japanese National Railways were passed Monday by a Lower House special committee after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and two opposition parties reached a compromise.The bills, which are expected to be passed by a Lower House plenary session as early as today, will then go immediately to the Upper House.The LDP, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party reached a compromise to have seven Japan Railway firms shoulder 180 billion yen of the 4.3 trillion yen pension-related costs. The original government-sponsored bills had proposed 360 billion yen.The three parties form a majority in the Upper House. The LDP lacks a majority in the chamber but holds one in the Lower House.The special committee debated the government-sponsored bills, which are designed to transfer most of the debt to the general account. Debt payments would be made through steps such as the transfer of 1 trillion yen from the postal savings system and creation of a special tobacco tax of 1 yen per cigarette.The Liberal Party, SDP and LDP agreed that a resolution of the JNR debt issue should not be further postponed. The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, and the Heiwa-Kaikaku parliamentary group oppose the burden-sharing proposal, saying the issue of pension-related costs was already settled between the government and JR firms.How to handle the burden was a focal point at the committee session because the JR firms have said they have already borne a sufficient amount.Following the privatization, JR companies agreed to shoulder about 14.5 trillion yen, while the government was to cover 22.6 trillion yen. However, the government’s share has ballooned to 28 trillion yen, spurring it to draw up a bill calling for the JR companies to shoulder an additional 360 billion yen, spread out over the next 20 years.In 1996, the Cabinet decided the JR firms should bear 170 billion yen of the 940 billion yen needed to make up the shortage in reserves for the JNR employee pension program.
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