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Japan lower house panel approves record 97.71 tril. yen budget for FY 2018

TOKYO — Japan’s lower house budget committee approved Wednesday a record 97.71 trillion yen ($912 billion) budget for the fiscal year from April, setting the stage for its passage through the chamber later in the day.

 

The fiscal 2018 budget includes 32.97 trillion yen, or about a third of the total, in social security spending amid the graying of the population and 5.19 trillion yen to bolster defense capabilities to cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.

 

The budget set a new record for the sixth straight year, even as debt-ridden Japan needs to restore its fiscal health, the worst among advanced economies.

Following expected approval by the House of Representatives, the House of Councillors is scheduled to start deliberating on the budget.

 

The budget is certain to be enacted before the current fiscal year ends in March as Japan’s Constitution stipulates automatic enactment of a budget 30 days after it is sent to the upper house. Lower house resolutions override those of the upper house.

 

For fiscal 2018, the government managed to meet its target of limiting the year-on-year rise in social security spending to 500 billion yen after a review of medical and nursing care fees.

 

Excluding 23.30 trillion yen debt-servicing costs, a record-high 74.41 trillion yen is earmarked for policy spending in the general account.

 

The budget also includes funds to prepare day-care centers for children as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, placing importance on human resources development, has pledged to resolve the shortage of such facilities.

 

Japan’s dependence on debt has been falling slightly in recent years. The government plans to issue fewer bonds than in the initial fiscal 2017 budget but the amount still stands at 33.69 trillion yen.

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