Staff writer

OSAKA — In an effort to better understand the state of the economy and boost his public support, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi spent a busy day here Monday — meeting with local business leaders, small-shop owners and university students.

Accompanied by Economic Planning Agency chief Taichi Sakaiya, himself a native of Osaka, Obuchi held talks with Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama, Osaka Mayor Takafumi Isomura and Yasuo Shingu, chairman of the Kansai Federation of Economic Organizations.

During a series of meetings with them, Obuchi renewed his resolve to get the sluggish economy back on its feet within two years. The prime minister briefed them on the government’s plan to draw up a fresh package of economic stimulus measures by the middle of the month.

The economic package will be included in a third supplementary budget for the current fiscal year, which is worth more than 10 trillion yen. “I have already asked the government and the ruling party to work on the supplementary budget. We would like to hold an extra Diet session as early as possible to get it approved,” he said.

Yokoyama called on the prime minister to allow his prefecture to host a summit meeting of the Group of Seven major economic powers in 2000, when Japan is due to chair the event. He also called for the Cabinet to approve Osaka’s candidacy to host the Olympics in 2008.

Shingu told Obuchi to hammer out effective measures to stimulate the economy, and tackle the problem of rising unemployment. The business leaders said that more than 60 percent of companies in Osaka are suffering from a shortage of funds due to the banking sector’s reluctance to extend loans.

In the afternoon, Obuchi strolled along a shopping arcade in Tenjinbashisuji in Osaka’s Kita Ward, Japan’s longest arcade, with nearly 400 years of history.

Upon entering the arcade, he was greeted by hundreds of cheering people. “Do something about the economy please,” an elderly woman said as she greeted Obuchi.

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