Japan PM pressured to spend more to fix economy
By SHINO YUASA,Associated Press Writer AP - 1 hour 1 minute ago
TOKYO - Japan's embattled prime minister faced opposition demands Friday that he authorize extra spending to shore up the flagging economy _ or else call early elections.
Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan, demanded Prime Minister Taro Aso compile another supplementary budget by year end because of worries about a deep global downturn.
The first supplementary budget, approved last month, was worth more than $18 billion. But the opposition is pushing for yet more spending.
"Do you honestly think we can ride out this crisis through December?" Ozawa said amid raucous heckling from legislators in parliament.
Aso, who has been under pressure from the opposition to dissolve the lower house of parliament, said the additional budget must wait until early next year. His popularity has been sagging amid a series of personal gaffes and corruption scandals in his bureaucracy.
"We can manage the economy with the first supplementary budget right now," he said.
The heated exchange between Aso and Ozawa came during so-called "question time" in parliament, the first for Aso since he took over from his predecessor Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned in September.
Ozawa demanded elections before the end of the year if more money isn't injected into the economy.
"Why don't you use December for elections?" he asked. "You must quickly dissolve the lower house and let the public judge you."
Aso rejected the call for elections, saying Japan cannot afford a political vacuum during the financial difficulties.
The prime minister is struggling to steer the hobbled economy, the world's second largest, amid a sharp pullback in corporate investment and slumping demand at home and abroad that has set off a slew of corporate bankruptcies and job losses.
In September, the number of bankruptcies surged 43 percent from the same month the previous year, according to Teikoku Databank, which compiles such data. Japan's jobless rate stood at 3.7 percent in October as many young people were unable to find jobs.
Aso has been criticized for a series of embarrassing remarks, the latest which surfaced this week that criticized the elderly for racking up medical expenses and being a tax burden. He apologized for the remark, which came shortly after earlier comments seen as offensive to medical doctors.
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