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Even giving money away can't make Aso popular

JAPANESE Prime Minister Taro Aso is touting a one-time cash handout of 12,000 yen, or about US$120 per person, as the centerpiece of a stimulus package to revive the world's second-largest economy.

But polls show that most Japanese oppose the idea ?? though many confess they'll take the money anyway.

They argue that most people will just save the money, not spend it. Others say it's a shortsighted plan that exacerbates the government's ballooning budget deficit. Some call it a ploy to boost the plunging popularity of Aso and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"Japanese politicians are so immature in the way they think the economy should be run," said Atsuko Yamaguchi, 42, of Osaka. "It's always for-the-moment kind of thinking. It's so stupid. I'm so ashamed."

Yamaguchi says she'll accept the cash because she had just lost her job at a consulting firm. "But will it really be helpful for the economy of Japan? I don't think so."

A national telephone poll last month by the Yomiuri, the nation's biggest daily newspaper, found that three-quarters of 1,087 respondents disapproved of the cash payouts. In a similar survey by the Asahi newspaper, nearly two-thirds wanted the government to scrap the plan.

The widespread repulsion seems driven largely by disgust with Aso and a perceived lack of leadership at a time of crisis, experts say. Aso ranks among the country's least popular leaders since World War II.

A spokesman for the prime minister acknowledged public criticism of the handout but said that while many people might not agree with it, that wouldn't stop them accepting it.

He said the chief aim was to help households meet immediate economic needs.


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