In a move that could affect a number of foreign residents in Japan, the government will consider toughening eligibility requirements for welfare benefits as part of its budget review, Taro Kono, the newly appointed minister on administrative reforms, said Friday.

Kono, 52, an outspoken Lower House member who also holds the posts of National Public Safety Commission chairman and minister in charge of disaster management, said he will follow through with a proposal he made last year to cut back on welfare assistance to foreign residents on mid- to long-term visas.

Kono made the proposal in August last year as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s project team to eliminate wasteful spending.

In an interview with The Japan Times at the time, Kono talked of the need to limit welfare outlays by denying access to public aid for a certain period after a person’s arrival or their visa renewal. He said this was necessary to also prevent abuse by those coming here just to receive welfare.

“I don’t think I should change my principles and opinions because I became a minister,” Kono told reporters Friday. “I’d like to make my argument within the government when the right time comes.”

He said the possible changes to eligibility requirements will be taken up in the so-called autumn review of the government budget outlays scheduled in November, where 5,000 programs across all government ministries will be scrutinized.

Of the 5,000, social security — including welfare programs — will be high on his agenda, he said, referring to Japan’s international pledge to achieve a government budget surplus by fiscal 2020.

“Social security spending is expected to grow (due to population aging) by ¥500 billion every year,” he said. “That means the outlays will expand by ¥2.5 trillion over the next five years. No matter how much the nation’s economy grows and tax revenue rises, there’s a limit to the amount we can spend. We will have no choice but to cut off low-priority programs.”

All of the autumn review sessions will be broadcast live on NicoNico, an online video-sharing service, and the results will be reflected in the fiscal 2016 budget, outlines of which will be decided by the end of the year, Kono said.

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