The fiscal 2010 budget and related bills were enacted Wednesday with their passage through the Upper House. The budget is the fifth-most quickly enacted in postwar history. Still, the Hatoyama administration has many problems left to solve.
The fiscal 2010 budget is the largest ever at ¥92.299 trillion. For the first time in postwar history, bond issuances in an initial budget — totaling a record-high ¥44.303 trillion, or 48 percent of the budget — will top tax revenues (¥37.396 trillion).
A bill making public high schools tuition-free and providing some ¥120,000 a year to private high school students, and another offering a child allowance of ¥13,000 per month per child, are expected to be enacted by the end of March. Big expenses are ahead. The Democratic Party of Japan’s election manifesto called for the child allowance to be doubled from fiscal 2011, which will require ¥5.3 trillion. In addition, ¥1.6 trillion will be needed annually to improve nursery schoolsand other child-related services. The government must consider how to best utilize the limited available funds to create a social environment conducive to child rearing.
A decision on whether tuition support should cover students at North Korea-affiliated “Chosen” high schools has been postponed. They should not be excluded from the plan.
Passing the budget is a big hurdle cleared, but a bill to establish the National Strategy Bureau under the Cabinet — a pillar of the administration’s agenda of reform — is yet to be enacted.
Economically, the government has a dual challenge: pull the Japanese economy out of deflation and work out a long-term plan for financial reconstruction. Drafting an effective program to nurture new industries that will contribute to economic growth and employment is very important.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama must strive to improve the public image of the DPJ, which has been sullied by the effects of funds scandals and the perception that it doesn’t permit free discussion within the party, as indicated early this week by the aborted attempt to dismiss a rebellious vice secretary general.
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