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Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
Budget-cutters may target '12 funds for nuclear plants
By MASAMI ITO
The next round of "shiwake" screenings for budget cuts, in November, may target fiscal 2012 funds set aside for nuclear plants, now that the future of atomic power in Japan is in great doubt, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura hinted Thursday.
Renho, state minister in charge of government revitalization, is expected to lead the fourth round of shiwake — screenings to identify and cut financial waste in state-backed projects. During taping for a TV program on BS-TBS Thursday, Renho reportedly revealed that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked her to turn her attention to nuclear power and social security funds.
The budget-cutting process, initiated by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, has proved popular with voters and is considered one of the party's few successes.
Critics, though, charge that the shiwake panel's deliberations, which are publicly broadcast, amount to political theater orchestrated by the DPJ-led government to boost voter support.
Although the panel has cut a number of government projects it said wasted taxpayer money, the government has failed to fulfill the party's campaign promise to drastically reduce the size of the total general account.
Earlier this month, Noda indicated during meetings with opposition party leaders that the government may divert money allocated to promote nuclear plants to fund decontamination and compensation for those affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident.
"We must review nuclear power-related budgets," Noda was quoted as saying during a meeting with Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima.
Fujimura said Thursday morning that the budget-screening panel must take up various issues, and that the budgets related to nuclear plants were "under consideration."
The DPJ made the introduction of shiwake one of its key pledges in the 2009 Lower House election campaign. The first round was held in November 2009.
Fujimura said Noda wants to expand the shiwake process.
"Prime Minister Noda has expressed his intention to continue and strengthen the revitalization unit," Fujimura said.
"Based on the experience of the past (rounds), we are considering developing it, taking it to a higher level or changing its form," he said.
Diet session dates OK'd
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party agreed Thursday to convene the next extraordinary Diet session on Oct. 20, lawmakers said.
During the session, the DPJ-led government will aim to swiftly pass a third extra budget for the current fiscal year to fund full-fledged reconstruction of areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
DPJ Diet affairs chief Hirofumi Hirano was quoted as saying by LDP Diet affairs chief Fumio Kishida during their meeting that the ruling party is considering having Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda make a policy speech on Oct. 28 as requested by the opposition camp.
Kishida also quoted Hirano as saying the DPJ plans to close the extraordinary Diet session around Dec. 9.
The government is expected to submit the third supplementary budget bill to the Diet on Oct. 28, the lawmakers said.