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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Child-allowance bill clears Diet

Staff writer

The bill to provide monthly allowances to families raising children cleared the Upper House on Friday, enabling the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to deliver on a key promise made in last year's election campaign.

Families will now begin receiving a ¥13,000 monthly allowance for every child of junior high school age or younger.

The allowance will be paid three times during fiscal 2010 — in June, October an February — ensuring the first disbursement arrives before the July Upper House election.

Heeding a request by New Komeito, the DPJ-led coalition modified the bill this month to expand the scope of the benefits to children at child-care institutions.

The DPJ has pledged to pay ¥26,000 per child beginning in fiscal 2011, under another bill, but facing a snowballing government debt and without a clear source of revenue, Prime Minister Hatoyama has yet to assure that this vow will be fulfilled.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, has blasted a provision under the bill passed Friday that allows foreigners living in Japan to receive child allowances even if their children reside overseas, suggesting some may claim nonexistent offspring in order to receive larger subsidies.

During the Upper House plenary session, LDP lawmaker Tamayo Marukawa slammed the bill as a pork-barrel ploy to woo voters.

"Ramming the bill through while acknowledging the flaw in the system and without adequate deliberations is an act of (unforgivable) betrayal to the public," she said. "It's all about doling out money in June."

The bill's passage came only days after the ruling bloc enacted a record-high budget of ¥92.3 trillion for fiscal 2010. Japanese government bond issuance in the budget topped tax revenues for the first time in history.

The child allowance bill and other key campaign pledges, including a bill to make public high schools tuition-free, are expected to put major expansionary pressure on the budget, and the DPJ faces a rough road in making ends meet.

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The Japan Times

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