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Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Monday instructed the Finance Ministry to get ready to introduce a special quota for information technology projects in the fiscal 2001 budget, government officials said.

The move reflects Mori’s view that IT should be a major vehicle in Japan’s ongoing structural reform efforts and increase its economic growth potential, the officials said.

The envisaged budget framework may be larger than the 250 billion yen set aside in the fiscal 2000 budget for so-called “millennium projects,” centering on telecommunications, technology and the environment, they said.

The new spending quota would finance projects relevant to developing human resources and social welfare, in addition to those in the three areas covered by the millennium projects.

The Finance Ministry will prepare the blueprint for the creation of a special budgetary framework and submit it to a planned fiscal policy formulation body in July, the government officials said.

The new body will comprise the prime minister, the finance minister and the chief Cabinet secretary as well as the secretaries general and policy chiefs of the ruling parties.

Mori is scheduled to announce the outline of a special budgetary quota in late July, when the Cabinet approves guidelines for budget requests for fiscal 2001, which starts next April 1, the officials said.

The prime minister plans to use the new framework to develop IT-related equipment and nurture new industries in an effort to rack up higher economic growth, they said.

Earlier budget criteria

The government may have to adopt guidelines for fiscal 2001 budget requests earlier than usual, Vice Finance Minister Nobuaki Usui said Monday.

Usui said at a news conference that the January integration of government ministries and agencies will make the Finance Ministry’s task of drafting the fiscal 2001 budget more difficult than usual.

All government departments would like budget request criteria for the fiscal year beginning April 1 set before the usual deadline of late July, Usui said.

The existing 23 ministries and agencies are to be integrated into 13 entities in January 2001 as part of efforts to streamline the bureaucracy.

Usui said details of the guidelines will be worked out by a budget policy formulation body to be launched in July.

The new body would consist of the prime minister, the finance minister and the chief Cabinet secretary, along with senior ruling party officials.