The Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and New Komeito agreed at a working-level meeting to provide up to 200 billion yen to local governments to help reverse Japan’s declining birth rate, officials of the three parties said Wednesday.

However, there has been no decision as to how the 200 billion yen will be raised.

At any rate, the package, initiated by New Komeito to promote projects aimed at encouraging families to have more children, will be formally submitted Friday to the secretaries general and policy chiefs of each party.

During the meeting a decision will be made as to whether a supplementary budget will be necessary to implement the package or whether the fiscal 1999 budget’s current framework will be sufficient.

According to the plan, city, town and village governments would propose project plans to the central government. If a project is approved, the municipality would receive a budget drawn from the 200 billion yen fund.

Example proposals include measures to build nurseries at train stations, the creation of nursery facilities at companies and training programs for nursery employees and baby sitters.

At the same time, the government would also promote deregulation to increase the number of nurseries and kindergartens in Japan, and try to implement the relevant measures as early as April 2000.

To encourage nonprofit organizations, agricultural cooperatives, corporations and other private organizations to enter the nursery business, the government would provide subsidies if the party cleared certain standards.

Currently, privately owned nurseries are not subsidized by the government.

The parties also plan for the government to abolish a regulation stating government-owned nurseries must have their own land and buildings, thereby opening the way for operating on leased property.

The package will also encourage nurseries and kindergartens to share employees and property, and urge the Health and Welfare and Education ministries to establish common child care guidelines.

Nurseries are currently under the jurisdiction of the Health and Welfare Ministry, and kindergartens are under control of the Education Ministry. This division has been criticized for a lack of flexibility in promoting various measures for child care.

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