The fiscal 2008 second supplementary budget, which includes a ¥2 trillion cash handout to households, and related bills passed the Lower House Tuesday with majority support of the ruling parties. The supplementary budget includes support for small businesses and regional economies as well. But at a time when the Japanese economy is rapidly deteriorating, the budget is unlikely to be implemented early enough. Opposition forces, which control the Upper House and are opposed to the ¥2 trillion measure, will put up stiff resistance in the chamber.

The opposition’s call for using the money for such purposes as social welfare and employment stabilization appears to have public support. A Kyodo News poll shows 70.5 percent of the polled are against distributing the ¥2 trillion in cash benefits.

Asked what the ¥2 trillion should be primarily used for, 42 percent cited social security, including pension and medical services; 26.3 percent, employment stabilization; 11.2 percent, tax cuts; 10.7 percent, measures to increase the birthrate; and 4.5 percent, public works. Only 3.3 percent called for the handout.

Under law, the supplementary budget will be automatically enacted 30 days after it is sent to the Upper House if the chamber does not vote on it. As for the related bills, the ruling forces can get a second vote in the Lower House 60 days after the bills are sent to the Upper House, but this would be too late. The ruling bloc should rethink the ¥2 trillion in cash benefits — the cause of the delay in the Diet process.

Problems related to the cash benefits have cropped up. For example, both the central and local governments do not know how to distribute the money to people who have lost jobs and become homeless. Gov. Toru Hashimoto of Osaka Prefecture hopes to enforce a strict eligibility ceiling on household incomes and use the remaining funds to make school buildings earthquake-proof. But the central government says he cannot legally do that. It is absurd that the government seems set on wasting a large amount of money when most voters clearly see that it could be used for more meaningful purposes.

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