Related News

Home » World

Hatoyama targets waste in budget, gets high polls

JAPAN'S new prime minister ordered his Cabinet today to freeze parts of a US$154 billion stimulus package that the incoming government believes is wasteful.

Polls showed strong public support for the new, largely untested Cabinet installed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has promised to reinvigorate Japan's anemic economy and put families, not big business, at the center of his policies.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference that Hatoyama told ministers to "thoroughly review and evaluate all projects in the extra budgets to decide whether they should be executed or not" by Oct. 2.

Hatoyama's Democratic party, which overthrew the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party in historic elections late last month, have criticized some of the projects in the 14 trillion yen (US$154 billion) stimulus package passed by the LDP, including an animation museum, as wasteful spending that do not improve the lives of ordinary people.

Land and Transport Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters Thursday that he is scrapping two dam construction projects, including a 500 billion yen dam (US$5.5 billion) near Tokyo, which was started in the 1950s but has yet to be completed.

Public support for Hatoyama's government is strong so far, although people will be impatient for real improvement in the economy amid record joblessness.

A survey by the Mainichi newspaper showed an approval rating of 77 percent for Hatoyama's Cabinet, the second-highest level after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's public support at 85 percent when he took office in April 2001. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they have high expectations for the 62-year-old Hatoyama, who took office on Wednesday.

Hatoyama's party swept to power on promises to expand the social safety net and cash handouts to families and aid to farmers - moves that critics say will only further expand Japan's national debt.

The Democrats say they can pay for the programs by cutting wasteful spending in the budget - and Friday's move shows Hatoyama wants to quickly show he is serious about that.

Public support appears strong despite the lack of experience among most of those in Hatoyama's Cabinet. Because the Democrats have never held power in their 10-year existence, few have had Cabinet-level experience.

Many were heartened by the selection of veteran lawmaker Hirohisa Fujii as finance minister. Regarded as a fiscal conservative, Fujii was finance minister under a brief coalition government in the early 1990s, the only time in its 55-year history that the conservative LDP had previously been ousted from power. Previously a bureaucrat at the powerful Finance Ministry, Fujii is regarded as fiscal conservative - which has reassured some people amid the Democrats' spending plans.

Polls by the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan's top-selling daily, and the business daily Nikkei, found public support for the Hatoyama Cabinet was 75 percent.

Hatoyama will make his diplomatic debut next week with a visit to the United Nations and the Group of 20 economic summit in Pittsburgh. He will meet with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said.

The new prime minister has said he wants Japan to forge a more independent relationship with the United States and closer ties to the rest of Asia. He has also said he wants to review the US military presence in Japan, where 50,000 American troops are stationed.

But both Hatoyama's government and Washington have been keen to dispel worries that major changes in the alliance are afoot. Some 71 percent of respondents said US-Japan relations will remain unchanged under the new government, a poll by the major daily Asahi showed.

New Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, on his second day on the job, met with the US envoy in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, promising to deepen their bilateral alliance.

"We have issues that still need to be addressed, but I'm committed to deepening the Japan-US alliance to make it sustainable for 30 years, 50 years or even longer," Okada told US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

The Mainichi daily conducted its poll by telephone Wednesday and Thursday on randomly selected 1,650 voters. It said 1,014 voters responded. The Mainichi did not provide a margin of error, but a poll of that size would normally have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The Asahi surveyed 1,812 voters by telephone Wednesday and Thursday and received 1,054 responses. The Yomiuri also conducted a telephone poll on 1,820 voters during the same period and got 1,807 responses. A poll of that size would have a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The business daily Nikkei made a telephone poll on 1,397 voters and received 857 responses. A poll of that size would have a margin of error of 5 percentage points.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend