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Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Ruling bloc, opposition lawmakers defer Oshima spat to pass budget


Staff writer

Putting their spat aside for the time being, the ruling and opposition camps got together in the House of Representatives on Tuesday to approve an 81.79 trillion yen budget for fiscal 2003.

The budget was approved in a plenary session and was immediately sent to the House of Councilors.

The Lower House's endorsement ensures that the budget will be enacted after 30 days, even if the Upper House fails to approve it. In this case, it would take effect at midnight April 2, two days after the end of fiscal 2002.

The first major outlays for fiscal 2003 -- including pension premiums for public servants -- are not scheduled until April 4, which means the government will not need to compile an additional budget to cover the two-day period after the end of fiscal 2002.

The fiscal 2003 budget is 0.7 percent larger than the initial budget for fiscal 2002. It includes 47.59 trillion yen in general expenditures, which will finance various policy programs, an increase of 0.1 percent from 2002.

Although the ruling coalition had sought Lower House approval Monday night, it was delayed a day after opposition parties demanded more time to question farm minister Tadamori Oshima, who allegedly asked the Lower House secretariat to prepare a crib sheet to answer questions over a 6 million yen embezzlement scandal involving a former aide.

The opposition dropped its request after Lower House Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki promised to have some of the officials attend the Lower House's Legislative Bureau to take responsibility for helping the scandal-tainted farm minister during the Diet session.

The ruling camp is expected to try to speed up deliberations in the Upper House to ensure the budget can clear the chamber by the end of fiscal 2002.

The opposition camp, however, is also gearing up to further quiz Oshima and other ministers who have been involved in scandals during the upcoming Upper House sessions.



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The Japan Times

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