Japan’s beleaguered ruling party worked on Friday to pass a new $61 billion stimulus package that aims to create jobs and revive the country’s faltering economic recovery.
The new stimulus includes a wide range of measures, including aid for small business and regional economies, but prime minister Naoto Kan has repeatedly said the main focus is jobs.
“Employment first, employment second, employment third,” became Kan’s rallying cry for the package, which has faced a tough route through a divided parliament.
Japan’s economic recovery is slipping, with the unemployment rate still high by local standards, at around 5 percent. Deflation continues to weigh down growth _ government figures released Friday showed consumer prices have fallen for 20 straight months _ while a strong yen cuts into profits from the country’s exports.
But a weakened Kan has struggled to keep the focus on the economy in a venomous political environment. His approval ratings have sank in recent voter polls, with wide dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of recent diplomatic spats with China and Russia.
On Friday, opposition parties that control the upper house of parliament vowed to reject an extra budget to fund the new stimulus. The ruling Democrats control the more powerful lower house, and were still expected to pass the budget Friday evening.
The upper house is then expected to pass censure motions against two prominent members of the ruling Cabinet.
Earlier this week the justice minister was forced to resign over jokes he made about dodging parliamentary questions, after the opposition threatened to boycott deliberations on the stimulus plan if he didn’t quit.
An extra budget of 4.4 trillion yen ($53 billion) was expected to be passed for the stimulus, the remainder coming from cost cuts and frontloading of public works projects.