The government has adopted the fiscal 2010 budgetary request guideline, setting a record-high cap on general expenditures. General spending will climb to ¥52.67 trillion, an ¥940 billion increase over the ¥51.73 trillion initially budgeted for fiscal 2009 — when the ¥50 trillion mark was topped for the first time. The most remarkable feature of the guideline is that the policy of curbing automatic growth in social security spending by ¥220 billion a year from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2011 has been dropped. That policy was introduced by the Koizumi administration to push financial reconstruction.

Social security spending, including an automatic growth of ¥1.09 trillion, will reach ¥25.1 trillion, about half of general expenditures. In view of the deterioration of medical and nursing care services and welfare measures for the socially needy, the increase is unavoidable. Even so, the government as a whole appears to be rather lax in exercising fiscal discipline.

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