Pledging to cut government expenditures as doing its part, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Oct. 28 sought the public's understanding for the additional burden it will face to pay for rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In the policy speech to the two chambers of the Diet, Noda stated that his government would seek passage of a third supplementary budget as well as legislation for a temporary tax hike to pay for rebuilding.
He also stressed that the government would do its part in sacrificing for the rebuilding effort, with a plan to reduce personnel expenses for central government employees as well as returning part of the pay of Cabinet ministers and other top political appointees.
"Now is a time when the determination and talent of politicians will be questioned," Noda said in his speech. "It is clear what the Diet has to do."
He called on the ruling and opposition parties to pass as soon as possible the third supplementary budget of 12.1 trillion yen ($159.4 billion) as well as related legislation to accelerate the pace of rebuilding after the March 11 quake and tsunami, bringing the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under control and reviving the economy.
He added that his government would move resolutely to cut expenditures and secure nontax revenues to pay for the rebuilding.
Regarding legislation that would raise taxes to generate about 10 trillion yen in revenues, Noda said, "We will ask the public to shoulder a certain burden."
As examples of expenditure cutting measures to supplement rebuilding revenues, Noda pointed to a bill to cut the salaries of central government employees by an average 7.8 percent as well as a review of housing for civil servants. He also touched upon a review of policy to begin at the government revitalization council.
He also said every effort would be made to gather nontax revenues, including the selling of government-held assets, such as shares in Japan Post Holdings Co. and Japan Tobacco Inc.
Saying that politicians would have to take the lead in making sacrifices, Noda said he and other Cabinet ministers, as well as senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries, would return part of their salaries.
Noda said he would return 30 percent of his salary, while other Cabinet ministers and senior vice ministers would return 20 percent of their pay.
Noda also said he held high hopes that the ruling and opposition parties could reach agreement on reducing the number of Diet members, which is 722.
It still remains to be seen how much progress Noda can make on his various proposals.
While the third supplementary budget and the legislation to raise taxes to pay for rebuilding will likely pass the Diet in mid-November, it is still uncertain how negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties will turn out on the bill to cut the salaries of civil servants by an average 7.8 percent.
The government has also only begun discussions on reducing the amount of housing for civil servants, including the suspension of a plan to build housing in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture.
The policy review to be conducted by the government revitalization council will also not begin until late November.
Regarding the reduction in the number of Diet members, while discussions have proceeded on resolving the differences in the value of a vote, no such progress has been made on actually reducing the number of Diet seats.
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