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Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008

Additional budget for stimulus in the works


By KANAKO TAKAHARA and TAKAHIRO FUKADA
Staff writers

The government will draft a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year to secure financial resources for an economic stimulus package to be drafted by month's end, economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano said Friday.

Before the Cabinet meeting Friday morning, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Finance Minister Bunmei Ibuki, trade minister Toshihiro Nikai and Yosano met to discuss the package.

Whether to draft an extra budget and how large to make it are politically sensitive issues, so the ministers were being cautious in their remarks.

If the scale of package is big, it will raise speculation that Fukuda is trying to win over voters ahead of a snap election. But then again, big government spending means more damage to state coffers.

The package, which comes as Fukuda struggles to raise his dismal approval ratings, includes a discount on expressway tolls and financial support for small and midsize firms suffering from the credit crunch, government sources said.

The package also includes assistance for nonpermanent workers to find regular employment and subsidies to help fisheries and agricultural operators buy more energy-efficient equipment.

Finance Minister Ibuki, meanwhile, dismissed the possibility of issuing deficit-covering government bonds despite pressure to do so from Liberal Democratic Party politicians.

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