The House of Representatives approved a 6.79 trillion yen supplementary budget Tuesday aimed at putting the nation’s fragile economy on a full recovery track. The second supplementary budget for fiscal 1999, which will help finance the 18 trillion yen economic stimulus package unveiled last month, was passed with the support of the full Lower House during a plenary session, including the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners, the Liberal Party and New Komeito party. The house’s Budget Committee had endorsed it earlier in the day. The budget was immediately sent to the Upper House. It will be deliberated in the House of Councilors’ Budget Committee today and Thursday, and is expected to be endorsed by the upper chamber at its plenary session Thursday afternoon. Of the 6.79 trillion yen, 3.5 trillion yen is earmarked for public works supporting social-infrastructure, such as urban highways, and 773.3 yen billon is for expanded loan guarantees to small and midsize firms struggling amid the credit crunch. The budget also includes 911 billion yen to finance the postponement of premium payments for the public nursing-care system debuting in April, a measure widely seen as a gesture by the ruling coalition to woo voters. The extra funds will raise the total general-account budget to 89.02 trillion yen, up from the initially forecast 81.86 trillion yen. The government will issue 7.57 trillion yen in new bonds to cover the latest supplementary budget, as well as the estimated 1.44 trillion yen shortfall in tax revenues. The bonds issued will total 38.62 trillion yen in the current fiscal year, making government bonds account for 43.4 percent of state revenues, a postwar record. Meanwhile, a package of bills to rebuild the nation’s financially strapped pension programs cleared the Lower House late Tuesday afternoon. However, because of the Diet’s tight schedule, the bills will probably not pass the Upper House by the time the current session ends next Wednesday. The new laws will raise the age of pension recipients from 60 to 65 and reduce benefits from one of the programs by 5 percent. Following Tuesday’s vote in the Lower House, the bills were immediately sent to the Upper House, where deliberations will begin late this week.
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