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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Upper House authorizes 83 trillion yen 2007 budget


Staff writer

The House of Councilors on Monday evening approved the 82.91 trillion yen fiscal 2007 budget following its endorsement by the chamber's budget committee earlier in the day.

In contrast to the fierce battles between the ruling and opposition blocs during the Lower House deliberations, the budget passed the Upper House relatively smoothly before the start of the new fiscal year on April 1.

The general account budget, the first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in September, saw a 4-percent increase from the initial budget of fiscal 2006. According to the Finance Ministry, new government bonds issues saw the largest reduction ever -- down 4.5 trillion yen from the 2006 initial budget to 25.43 trillion yen

During the Lower House debate earlier this month, opposition parties slammed the ruling bloc for abruptly terminating discussions over the revelation that a number of lawmakers had declared suspicious office expenses in their political funding reports despite using rent-free government offices.

The ruling coalition forced a vote in the Lower House Budget Committee March 2 to approve the budget. The opposition parties fought back with vote-delaying tactics, and the budget cleared the full Lower House around 4 a.m. March 3.

The current Diet session had a bumpy start with health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa triggering public outrage by describing women as "child-bearing machines." The comment came in a speech he gave in January on the nation's declining birthrate and the strained social welfare and pension systems.



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