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2009年10月 8日 (木)

補正予算見直し 景気への配慮が欠かせない

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Oct. 8, 2009)
Don't imperil economy during budget review
補正予算見直し 景気への配慮が欠かせない(10月8日付・読売社説)

A review of a supplementary budget for this fiscal year by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is entering the final stage.

The government has so far squeezed 2.5 trillion yen from the 14.7 trillion yen extra budget compiled by the previous administration.

But the prime minister wants more money wrung from the budget and has told his ministers to find additional fat to trim. However, many government bodies have been less than willing to comply with Hatoyama's request. Some observers suspect the government might not be able to achieve its target of cutting 3 trillion yen from the budget by the time it finalizes the review by the end of next week.

We fully agree with the drive to cut wasteful budget spending. However, we think the government could consider redirecting the money it has scraped together not only to the main budget for the next fiscal year, but also for effective stimulus measures that can be quickly put in place.

The Oct. 15 deadline for ministries and agencies to resubmit their budgetary requests for the fiscal 2010 budget is approaching. This task appears to be more important than the extra budget review to the Hatoyama Cabinet for carrying out its pet policy of budgetary reform.


Big test lies ahead

To implement pledges the Democratic Party of Japan made in the House of Representatives election, such as the introduction of a new child allowance system and basically making public high school education free, the government intends to review budgetary requests made under the previous administration led by Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Unlike the supplementary budget, which was hastily cobbled together, the government can expect to have a much tougher slog as it dissects the 2010 budget, which contains funding for many essential projects that directly affect people's daily lives. Cabinet members, at the urging of Hatoyama to change from "budget-padding" ministers to "budget-assessing" ministers, are facing a crucial moment.

The Hatoyama Cabinet is about to be put to the test over whether it can compile a budget big enough to implement new policies, while facing the prospect of a massive tax revenue shortfall expected to total 4 trillion yen to 5 trillion yen due to the economic downturn.

In revising the 2009 supplementary budget, the Construction and Transport Ministry set aside the highest amount of 890 billion yen, followed by 480 billion yen at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and 440 billion yen at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Measures to be scrapped include a 330 billion yen project by the transport ministry to widen two-lane highways to four lanes, and a farm ministry fund used to help consolidate farmland, which had a 300 billion yen price tag.


Utmost care needed

There could be no doubting that the project for large-scale farmland, for example, does not need to be anywhere near the top of the government's to-do list.

But the problem is that cutting these projects could have repercussions for the economy. The unemployment rate remains above 5 percent. Small and midsize companies are facing severe financial difficulties.

Under these circumstances, road-related and other public works projects could stimulate the economy to a certain extent. Calls for providing greater employment security also remain strong.

What impact would a 3 trillion yen cut in the extra budget generate? One estimate suggested the nation's gross domestic product for this fiscal year would fall 0.4 percentage point.

The Hatoyama Cabinet should exercise utmost care on economic matters. If signs emerge the economy is worsening, the administration must act quickly through such measures as a new stimulus package.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2009)
(2009年10月8日01時05分  読売新聞)


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