To the relief of the Hatoyama administration, the fiscal 2010 budget was passed by the Lower House on Tuesday. It was immediately sent to the Upper House, but it is certain to be executed from April 1, the first day of fiscal 2010. Under the Constitution, if the Upper House does not approve the budget within 30 days, the Lower House decision prevails and, given the current balance of power, opposition parties have no chance of forcing changes in such a short time.
The ¥92.29 trillion budget, the largest ever, includes record-high bond issuance of ¥44.30 trillion. Public works spending will be slashed by 18.3 percent, while social security spending will rise by 9.8 percent. The Lower House failed to sufficiently discuss the content of the budget, devoting too much time to political funding irregularities involving Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa. The Upper House should devise a way to ensure sufficient discussion takes place on both the budget and the money-politics issues.
The DPJ will try to divert people’s attention from the problems of Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Ozawa by enlivening Diet discussions on bills for its campaign promises, such as to introduce a new child allowance and make tuition at public high schools virtually free. But the funding irregularities involving DPJ Lower House member Chiyomi Kobayashi seem sure to cause further torment.
Mr. Hatoyama has directed Mr. Ozawa to start consultations with opposition parties toward banning political donations by business enterprises and labor unions. However, serious discussions on the matter are unlikely to begin until Mr. Ozawa appears before the Diet to fully explain the imbroglio in which his political funds management body has become entangled.
Other important bills up for discussion in the Diet include one to establish a national policy strategy bureau, another to centralize control of high-ranking bureaucrat appointments, and a bill to give legal authority to a policy forum between the central and local governments. Even if these bills are enacted, though, the Hatoyama administration will continue to have a difficult time unless it can decisively solve its problems of money and politics.
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