• Kyodo News


With Wednesday’s Diet passage of the cash handout bill, Prime Minister Taro Aso is now expected to order the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc next week to compile additional economic measures to combat the recession, sources said.

The added steps are expected to feature measures to spur consumption and improve the battered employment situation, including the issuance of interest-free national bonds.

The size is likely to be ¥15 trillion to ¥20 trillion in terms of fiscal spending, and the whole package will be worth ¥100 trillion on a project basis.

Following discussions by the ruling bloc, the government will compile an extra budget for fiscal 2009 from April 1, the sources said.

The prime minister is set to unveil the steps so he can highlight his efforts to revive the economy at the Group of 20 financial summit to be held in London on April 2.

The supplementary budget is expected to be submitted to the Diet in late April or in early May. If deliberations on it drag on, the current Diet session may be extended from its present June 3 close.

On Wednesday, Aso also issued a statement urging the public to use the cash handouts that come with the day’s Diet passage of a bill attached to the fiscal 2008 second extra budget.

Exacting a lesser toll

The budget-financing bill passed Wednesday by the Diet will reduce the maximum toll on most expressways to just ¥1,000 on weekends and holidays, regardless of distance traveled, starting March 28.

The discounts will last for two years and apply only to vehicles equipped with electronic toll-collection systems.

But tolls on expressways in the Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas, along with the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway and the Tokyo Bay Aqualine bridge-tunnel, will be different.

Tolls in these areas will be cut 30 percent on weekends and holidays starting March 28 or 29, depending on the route.

On weekdays, tolls on most highways outside Tokyo and Osaka will be cut 30 percent from March 30 for all vehicles from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To promote discount travel on the highways, the government is planning a ¥5,250 subsidy for each ETC device purchased.

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