The 81.9 trillion yen fiscal 1999 state budget was passed by the Diet in record time Wednesday evening, buttressing the government’s efforts to yank the nation out of one of its worst recessions.
The House of Councilors, where the Liberal Democratic Party-Liberal Party coalition lacks a majority, rejected the stimulus-padded budget during a plenary session earlier in the day.
However, Article 60 of the Constitution stipulates that the vote of the House of Representatives overrides that of the Upper House on budget approval after a meeting of representatives of both chambers is held to attempt to hammer out a compromise.
Although the opposition camp, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, voted against the government-proposed budget, there was little objection to the swiftness of Diet deliberations on it, due to fears that a delay could further undermine the lackluster economy.
The Lower House gave its seal of approval to the budget by majority vote Feb. 19, and under the Constitution the budget would have taken effect automatically Saturday even if the Upper House did not vote on it. The fiscal year begins April 1.
The previous record for rapid parliamentary approval of a budget was the March 22, 1995, enactment of the fiscal 1995 budget, which was deliberated on during the weeks after the Great Hanshin Earthquake that January and included allocations for relief and rebuilding.
The fiscal 1999 budget covers roughly 20 trillion yen in public works spending and various tax cuts that the government hopes will help pull the economy out of two years of contraction.
But in order to finance the huge budget, the government has been forced to include the issue of a record 71.1 trillion yen in bonds in fiscal 1999, which will drive the state further into debt and push the Finance Ministry’s hopes to put the nation on a sounder fiscal footing further from realization.