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Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009
'10 budget scrapped; Cabinet starts over
Fujii vows restraint to pay for campaign promises
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government decided Tuesday to scrap the framework set up by the previous administration for the 2010 budget.
The new administration will review spending priorities from top to bottom and try to trim ministries' requests for money while finding new sources of funding by starting the budget from scratch.
While not giving a specific figure for the total budget, the administration said the ministries will submit new requests by Oct. 15, and that the government will compile the budget by the end of the year, according to a policy outline adopted by the Cabinet.
Who will oversee the budget compilation process remains an open question.
"We will execute major items that are listed on plans of (the ruling parties') manifestos by eliminating wasteful spending, unnecessary and non-urgent projects," the policy outline says.
Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii said eliminating wasteful spending and prioritizing people's daily lives will help maintain fiscal discipline.
Ministers must not make too many budgetary requests, Fujii said at a news conference after the Cabinet outline was released.
"They should rather be the ones who assess (requests)," he said.
Under Liberal Democratic Party rule, ministers often made last-ditch efforts to secure funds for their ministries during budgetary negotiations.
The new government will fulfill its campaign pledges by cutting wasteful spending, Fujii said.
"We will execute our manifestos to be implemented from fiscal 2010," he said. "If we cannot keep this promise, we will lose the public's trust."
During the campaign, the Democratic Party of Japan promised child care allowances, free high school tuition, lower gasoline taxes and an end to tolls on highways. The party also stressed that politicians, not bureaucrats, will decide policy and budget priorities.
The new National Strategy Office, under the direct control of the prime minister, is expected to take the initiative in deciding the overall budgetary framework.
Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been appointed as minister in charge of the bureau.
However, Fujii repeated that the Finance Ministry will have the power to compile the budget. Two weeks after the launch of the new Cabinet, the strategy office doesn't have a home yet.
"Although a signboard has been put in place, there is no staff," a Cabinet Office official said. "There is no office. I cannot tell you its contact number as I do not know it."
The signboard has been in the Cabinet Office building since Sept. 18. An official at the Prime Minister's Official Residence also said nothing concrete has been decided regarding the strategy office's staffing.
"At this very moment, we are studying" the details of how the office should be structured, the official said.
The authority of the new strategy office also remains unclear. The officials said there is no law stipulating its authority and function.
The DPJ's campaign platform called for the office to be created, but officials said they do not have a concrete schedule for submitting a bill to the Diet to raise the office's status to bureau level and what kind of power the new entity is to be given.