Japan Plans $99 Billion Stimulus

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso ordered more than $99 billion in fresh spending to rescue the world's second-biggest economy from its deepest recession since World War II.

TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has ordered more than 10 trillion yen ($99 billion) in fresh spending to rescue the world's second-biggest economy from its deepest recession since World War II.

The figure amounts to more than 2 percent of Japan's gross domestic product, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano told reporters Monday after meeting with Aso.

Yosano said the package is part of the broader international effort to revive the global economy. "These are the instructions I have received (from the prime minister), so I would like to work toward this goal," he said.

Aso revealed last week at the G-20 summit in London that he intended to put together a new stimulus package, on top of 12 trillion yen in fiscal steps that the government has implemented since last year.

The latest package will include measures to help contract workers and small businesses, boost regional economies, expand "green" technologies and support elderly care, said Yasunaga Matsuki, a spokesman at the Ministry of Finance.

Officials aim to finalize details of the latest package by Friday and then submit the extra budget proposal to parliament soon after, Matsuki said.

Japan has been hit particularly hard by the global slowdown, which has sapped foreign sales of its cars and gadgets. Exporters including Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. have slashed production and jobs in response.

Japan's gross domestic product shrank by an alarming 12.1 percent annual rate in the October-December period.

The government's latest spending initiative comes on the heels of further signs of economic deterioration.

Data for February released last week showed that industrial production tumbled, household spending fell sharply, and the country's unemployment rate rose to a three-year high at 4.4 percent. A key central bank survey showed that confidence among big manufacturers plunged to its lowest point ever.

Since taking office in September, Aso has repeatedly said that restoring Japan's economy is the top priority of his government.

Lawmakers last month passed a record 88.5 trillion yen budget for the fiscal year that started April 1, which included parts of Aso's two previous stimulus packages.

Officials declined Monday to comment on where they would find extra money, though Aso has said recently that he would turn to issuing bonds if needed. Japan's massive public debt now runs at 170 percent of GDP -- the highest level among industrialized economies.

In contrast, the Bank of Japan is not expected to unveil any major policy moves when it wraps up a two-day policy board meeting Tuesday.

It has little wiggle room on its key interest rate, which is already super low at 0.1 percent. It is also buying commercial paper and corporate bonds to help firms raise funds.

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