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Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

State allocates 50 billion yen in 2006 budget


Staff writer

The government announced Thursday how to spend an as-yet-unallocated 50 billion yen in the 79.69 trillion yen fiscal 2006 budget.

The new items include an extra 5.1 billion yen for helicopters and patrol ships, 3.5 billion yen for a next-generation supercomputer aiming to be the world's fastest calculator, 17.4 billion yen in more aid to private colleges and 300 million yen to find out why a large drift of jellyfish up to 1 meter in diameter are appearing in Japanese waters.

In addition, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is slated to get 1.5 billion yen more for research grants and the Foreign Ministry will get 139 million yen more to cover travel costs.

The National Police Agency has been promised 149 more police officers, while the agriculture ministry will get 1.25 billion yen to shore up loans for fisheries and 179 million yen for its electronic-tag project.

Still conspicuously absent from the budget was money to construct a secular war memorial -- an alternative to the much-criticized Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

For two days, ministers visited the Finance Ministry to lobby for more money for pet projects initially denied funding in the draft budget.

The visits were largely a formality, as most of the "negotiations" were scripted a few days earlier when the ministers negotiated for money in the draft budget, government officials said.

"It's all staged," said one minister's secretary, who asked not to be named. "But from the outside, it looks like the minister or government officials were able to change the course of the budget, and that feels good."

Environment Minister Yuriko Koike questioned the last-minute negotiations.

"Maybe it's time to stop this. It's now more of a formality," Koike told a news conference Thursday, before asking for a total 500 million yen for antiglobal-warming programs.



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