Members of the ruling bloc are increasingly demanding a boost of fiscal spending, apparently as the possibility of a snap election of the House of Representatives looms.
Some in the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, are seeking to implement fresh cash handout programs under the government's third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 or under the regular budget for fiscal 2021.
Political observers say such moves are intended to appeal to voters ahead of a possible dissolution of the Lower House early next year.
Yuzuru Takeuchi, Komeito's policy chief, met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on Oct. 6 to propose the establishment of a benefit money program for those preparing to apply for universities or jobs. The proposed plan calls for distributing ¥20,000 per person to third-year high school students and high school graduates preparing for university admission exams or looking for jobs, to help households struggling with the prolonged effects of the novel coronavirus crisis.
The benefit amount is said to be based on the fee for the unified university entrance examination.
On Oct. 14, junior LDP members Akihisa Nagashima, Arata Takebe and Naomi Tokashiki met with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to request a universal cash handout of ¥50,000 per person that will succeed the ¥100,000 distribution that has already been implemented, stressing the need to spur consumption once again.
The student cash handout plan was initially met with opposition from those in the government and the LDP, with one former minister saying that "young people are not the only ones suffering."
However, discussions on the proposal began behind the scenes as Suga considers Komeito's participation in the ruling coalition important.
According to a senior Komeito member, ongoing discussions are aimed at introducing a program that does not narrow the scope of recipients in order to realize a program that reaches struggling households more broadly.
The request by Nagashima and others received tepid responses from many within the LDP, including a senior official who called the proposal "a mere stunt."
However, observers point to the significance of the fact that the request was made by members of a faction led by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, a key supporter of the Suga administration.
The prime minister is said to have told the junior members that he will make efforts to meet their request. "It will be part of the discussions for the third supplementary budget," a senior member of the Nikai faction said.
The government and ruling parties are expected to officially begin considering additional economic measures from mid-November, and some believe that the Cabinet may approve the third extra budget bill on Dec. 11 at the earliest.
"The reason why some members of the ruling bloc are pressuring for more expenditures may be because they sense a nearing dissolution of the Lower House," a Cabinet minister said.
A senior member of the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said, "Komeito begins demanding high spending when an election is around the corner."
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