Five Cabinet members spoke out Tuesday on economic matters, with two, including Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa, calling for a reduction in public works for fiscal 2002, and the others discussing the need for a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year.
Shiokawa said he intends to seek a 10 percent cut in public works spending as he drafts the national budget for fiscal 2002.
“If we reassess projects, especially long-term ones, we may come up with a cut of, for example, around 10 percent,” Shiokawa said, referring to public works spending in the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins April 1.
At a separate news conference and after a morning Cabinet meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, also expressed the government’s readiness to reduce public works outlays and to improve the efficiency of budgetary expenditures.
The government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has pledged to cap the issuance of new government bonds at 30 trillion yen in fiscal 2002 and to cut expenditures radically, particularly inefficient public works spending.
But the current fiscal year appears to be another matter, with other Cabinet ministers referring to the need to compile an extra budget to soften the impact of deflation, which is likely to increase as a result of reform programs pushed forward by Koizumi.
“If we need money to expedite reforms, we have to think about (a supplementary budget),” said Heizo Takenaka, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy.
Takenaka said a reform action plan to be unveiled by Koizumi this month will focus on a safety net for the unemployed, revitalization of capital markets, the realization of urban renewal and promotion of information technology.
Takeo Hiranuma — minister of the economy, trade and industry — said any extra budget should emphasize on measures to nurture new businesses and create new jobs.
The government should refrain from writing an old-fashioned budget that is geared heavily toward public works projects, he said.
Speaking at a separate news conference, Koji Omi, minister in charge of science and technology policy, said Japan should compile an extra budget this fall because the global economy is deteriorating amid plummeting earnings at IT-related companies.
Omi said he has proposed between 300 billion yen and 400 billion yen in appropriations in the supplementary budget to nurture startup ventures and promote cooperation between companies and academics, which in turn would lead to the creation of more jobs.
He said he has already conveyed this proposal to Koizumi.
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