A second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008, which includes the controversial ¥2 trillion in cash handouts to all households, was enacted on Tuesday. The enactment process has highlighted a futile confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps. Both camps must be flexible since the nation badly needs consensual budgetary measures to deal with the worsening economic crisis.

The extra budget had passed the Lower House on Jan. 13 with the support of the ruling parties. On Monday the Upper House, controlled by the opposition parties, passed a budget revision bill removing the cash handout plan, but the ruling parties rejected that bill in the Lower House.

As a result, the two houses set up a joint committee in accordance with constitutional provisions. Because the committee failed to reach a consensus, the extra budget was eventually enacted in line with constitutional provisions.

In the joint committee, the ruling and opposition blocs merely repeated their confrontation, delaying enactment of the supplementary budget. Both camps need to devise ways to turn the joint committee into a venue where meaningful compromise can be struck when time is precious. Otherwise, people’s distrust of politics will deepen.

The ¥4.848 trillion supplementary budget includes the ¥2 trillion in cash handouts as well as budgetary measures to help small and medium-size enterprises suffering from cash-flow problems, create employment opportunities in regional areas and lower expressway tolls.

The enactment of the supplementary budget does not automatically lead to its implementation. The Upper House has not yet started discussions on related bills necessary to implement it. The opposition parties will again oppose the ¥2 trillion in cash handouts since the measure has proven unpopular with those surveyed and its economic effects are dubious.

The opposition bloc should realize that delaying the budget’s implementation will worsen the economic difficulties. And the ruling bloc should realize that its vehement adherence to the cash-handout plan is the main cause of the delay in the Upper House debate on budget-related bills.

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