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2016 April 27 - May 10 [ECONOMY]

Japan’s debt for arms buildup snowball under Abe regime

May 7, 2016
Since Prime Minister Abe Shinzo took office in 2012, Japan’s military expenditure has continued increasing. In parallel with that, the amount of “deferred burden” of military spending has sharply gone up, bearing heavily on the general public.

The military budget for FY 2016, approved by the Diet at the end of March, topped five trillion yen for the first time ever. The direct cause of the serial increases in the military spending lies in the National Defense Program Guidelines and in the Mid-Term Defense Program, both of which the Abe administration decided upon in 2013. In order to implement the military buildup plan shown in the Guidelines, the Mid-Term Program requires the government to increase the military budget by nearly 1% annually from 2014 to 2018.

The so-called “deferred burden” of military expenditure has been growing at a much faster pace than the annual military budget. The total amount of the “deferred burden”, the de facto debts, increased by 6.7% from 4.36 trillion yen in FY 2015 to 4.65 trillion yen in FY 2016. During the four-year period under the Abe regime, it has increased 1.5 times.

The national debt for the arms buildup has reached about 37,000 yen per person in the country. The Abe administration is pushing ahead with military expansion on a larger scale than the nominal defense budget and is trying to put its enormous debt onto the backs of ordinary people.

Japan’s ballooning military debt have stemmed from the purchase of expensive military equipment, such as MV-22 Osprey aircraft (11.2 billion yen per aircraft) and the early-warning aircraft E2D Hawkeye (26 billion yen per aircraft), as well as bulk purchases of weaponry.

In April 2015, a law to allow the government to buy defense equipment on a payment plan of up to ten years was enacted. Until then, the maximum term of a payment plan had been five years.

The government claims that longer loans are necessary because when it buys weapons in bulk with a long-term contract, it can obtain discounts. However, if the amount of purchase increases, the total expense will increase as well even after discounts are taken into account. In FY2016, by utilizing this extended loan period program, the Defense Ministry ordered 17 SH60K helicopters for the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

As annual growth in defense spending in the initial budget has an upper limit set by the Mid-Term Defense Program, the Abe government has purchased even more weapons by using a supplementary budget. With the government taking such a stance, it was only a matter of time before defense spending exceeded five trillion yen in the FY2016 initial budget.

Once the Abe government makes a long-term payment plan to purchase weapons, it will threaten the budgetary freedom of future governments. This clearly goes against the constitutional principle of financial democracy, an idea that the power to administer national finances in a particular period of time should be under the control of the Diet which represents the general public.

Past related articles:
> FY2016 budget with record military spending approved [March 30, 2016]
> Abe gov’t seeks free hand to issue bonds in order to finance anti-people budget [February 1, 2016]
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