Four opposition parties agreed Tuesday to jointly urge the government to make changes worth 1.7 trillion yen to the 81.79 trillion yen budget for fiscal 2003 submitted to the Diet in late January.

Policy chiefs of the Democratic Party of Japan, Liberal Party, Social Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party presented the joint request to Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa and asked for a reply by Friday, opposition party officials said.

The request does not seek to change the total amount of government expenditures, they said.

But it urges the government to cut some public works spending, retract plans to increase burdens on the public and expand financial aid for smaller firms and jobless people, they said.

Specifically, the opposition parties will call on the government to freeze its plan to increase to 30 percent the portion of medical expenses salaried workers must pay under the health insurance program. The plan is to take effect in April.

The opposition parties also want the government to abandon its plan to cut unemployment benefits and raise taxes on tobacco and “happoshu” beverages, they said.

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