• Kyodo

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Japan has yet to use about ¥20 trillion ($180 billion) of some ¥73 trillion under its three fiscal 2020 extra budgets to fund stimulus packages in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a Kyodo News tally showed Tuesday.

The finding, based on data released by the Cabinet Office in May, reflects the government's slow moves to mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic, as well as the fact that projects such as a domestic tourism promotion campaign have stalled due to the further spread of the virus.

The disclosure of the amount left over comes as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Liberal Democratic Party considers drawing up another large-scale supplementary budget to finance a fresh economic stimulus, apparently with a view to winning public support ahead of a general election that must be held by November.

The government earmarked over ¥3.6 trillion as financial aid for restaurants and bars that comply with local authorities' requests to shut down or cut operating hours, but only about ¥970 billion had been provided as of late April, according to the tally.

Clerical delays are believed to be the reason behind the amount yet to be used.

Of about ¥2.37 trillion set aside for the state-subsidized Go To Travel campaign, launched in July last year to boost the virus-hit domestic tourism sector, only ¥940 billion has been delivered to tourists and service operators due to its nationwide suspension since late December in response to a spike in virus cases.

Government officials were aware that the extra budgets formed in the last fiscal year would not be used up and would be carried over to this fiscal year, a Finance Ministry official said.

Many policy measures under the first and second extra budgets have been implemented.

The fully implemented budgets include those for ¥100,000 cash handouts to all of Japan's 126 million residents to ease the pandemic's economic impact and the distribution of washable cloth face masks. Both measures were carried out last year.

The money set aside under the fiscal 2020 supplementary budgets include ¥11.5 trillion of reserve funds to deal with the pandemic, which could be used without a breakdown of the outlay and further Diet approval. The government has earmarked over ¥9 trillion of such funds.

The Cabinet Office has examined the budget implementation status of projects for which more than ¥10 billion in state funds has been allocated, with financial support for small and midsize firms excluded from the review.

Some of the leftover funds will be spent in fiscal 2021, which started in April, or later.

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