GUAM – Japan’s fiscal 2011 budget takes effect tomorrow, allotting more than $440 million for the transfer of Marines to Guam, while Parliament continues to debate where the budget money will come from.
Parliament enacted the $1.1 trillion budget March 29 although it’s still unclear how the government will pay for budget commitments plus recovery from the March 11 earthquake. The regular budget includes $420 million for upgrades and infrastructure investment on Guam and $21 million for a replacement facility in Okinawa to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The government has set aside money for only 60 percent of the 2011 budget so far and it says it needs to borrow to fund the rest. The government says reconstruction costs from the March 11 earthquake may surpass $300 billion while public debt is already double the size of its $5.5 trillion economy.
The government wants to sell at least 44 trillion yen ($539 billion) in bonds to make up for part of the shortfall and help finance reconstruction in an emergency budget to be introduced late next month. Opposition politicians, though, have expressed concern about government borrowing and instead have backed an emphasis on tax increases and spending cuts.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan yesterday scrapped plans to increase child allowance payments and the government has said it may also cancel a planned corporate tax cut, raise its sales tax, cut lawmakers’ salaries by a third, and take other measures to cut costs and help fund the recovery.
The 2011 budget was rejected by the upper house on March 29 but approval earlier by the lower house meant it was enacted anyway. According to Japanese law, the budget can pass Parliament with approval only of the lower house, which is dominated by the government, while bond sales to pay for the budget must be approved by both houses or by a two-thirds majority in the lower house. The governing party lacks the two thirds support it needs in the lower house for approval without some opposition support.
In all, Japan has pledged to spend more than $6 billion, of which already $833.8 million has been conveyed from previous years, to help transfer 8,600 Marines and their families and support staff to Guam by as early as 2016. The Japanese funding includes money for infrastructure upgrades on the island, housing construction and improvements to other facilities.