Policy chiefs from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two smaller allies agreed Monday evening that another 4 billion yen should be allocated in the 1998 fiscal budget to help households with young children.The step was taken after Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, met with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto earlier in the day and expressed reservations over a draft plan for the fiscal 1998 general account budget.In particular, Doi demanded the government increase children-related spending at a time when the nation wants to increase its population amid a declining birthrate. The 40 billion yen includes 1 billion yen in child-rearing allowances for single mothers with an annual income of less than 3 million yen.Under the original budget plan drafted by the Health and Welfare Ministry, beneficiaries of the service were limited to those with an annual income under 2.7 million yen. The three parties also decided the budget for nursery care for disabled children will be boosted from the originally planned 100 million yen to 700 million yen.Hashimoto met with Doi and New Party Sakigake chief Akiko Domoto in the morning to explain his government’s draft budget. Doi argued that the draft sets aside only a small amount of funds for social security and environment protection efforts, running counter to the demands of the times.Doi said the budget plan, intended to pursue fiscal restraint, will impose a heavier financial burden on the public, particularly on those with young children who will face an increase in nursery school fees.She also questioned the government’s intent to spend less public money in some environment-related areas, including solar power generation, at a time when Japan must cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the international agreement reached earlier this month in Kyoto.

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