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Government budget screening cuts even things people need - Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The first round of the governmentfs budget screening process ended on November 17. It has so far examined about 240 programs.

In a bid to increase life-related budgets, a large cut in military spending of five trillion yen was essential. However, screening team members targeted minor items such as PR and recruiting activities of the Self-Defense Forces. Major military budget items like expenditures for helicopter aircraft carriers and missile defense-related projects were left untouched. Out of the gsympathy budgeth for the stationing of U.S. forces, wages of Japanese personnel at U.S. bases in Japan were the only item the government sought to cut.

It also excluded the program of using 32 billion yen a year in tax money to give subsidies to political parties. Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio in his policy speech stressed that he would cooperate gto recover the public trust in politics.h On the one hand, he says he will eliminate the wasteful uses of tax revenues, on the other he wants to keep the government subsidies to political parties intact. This will help increase even more distrust in government.

As for medial treatment fees paid to medical institutions, the government did not take into account operating expenses, including repayment of borrowed money, and compared only yearly incomes of doctors in order to question the high income of medical practitioners. It argued that working hours in private practice is less than in hospitals, but the Japan Medical Association says that private-practice doctors work longer if they are in their 40s or older. The reason why the government brought up the false argument is that it wanted to cut medical treatment fees to medical practitioners. This ended in an equalization of income between private-practice doctors and hospital doctors in defiance of the election Manifesto of the Democratic Party of Japan calling for an increase in the medial treatment fees.

Regarding a review of drug prices, the government considered including medical products similar to those on the market such as herbal medicines and compresses into the category of uninsured drugs so that the government does not have to cover them. This will prevent medical institutions from using necessary alternative medicines for patients and also hampers low-income earners from buying medical goods.

The government considered making inpatients shoulder the costs of hospital meals, cut subsidies for equal treatment between full-time and part-time workers, abolished the program to promote childrenfs reading habits, and decided to cut many other budgets related to the peoplefs daily lives. Arguing, gThey hurt private businesses,h or gThey are in the red,h the government also discarded some programs in science and sports that should not be evaluated by the criteria of profitability or efficiency.

The government budget screening process was first promoted by former Prime Minister Koizumi Junfichiro with the aim of promoting the privatizations of the existing programs to make them profitable and efficient.

Those who had been advocates of the Koizumi structural reform policy or propellers of deregulation are also members of the Hatotama governmentfs budget screening team.

The Hatoyama Cabinet should radically change the course the previous Liberal Democratic-Komei government took in subservience to large corporations and the United States, and should focus on defending the interests of the people.

- Akahata, November 21, 2009


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