- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a new stimulus package Friday, calling for 15 trillion yen ($150 billion) in government spending to lift the world’s second-largest economy from a painful recession.

The package, equivalent to about 3 percent of Japan’s gross domestic product, is intended to ward off further economic deterioration, protect people’s livelihoods and foster future growth, Aso said in a nationally televised speech.

It is also part of the global effort to spur a broad recovery, he said.

Japan has been battered by an unprecedented collapse in global demand and now faces its deepest recession since World War II. The country’s GDP shrank an alarming annual rate of 12.1 percent in the October-December quarter.

Since Aso took office in September, lawmakers have approved two stimulus packages worth 12 trillion yen in fiscal spending.

“But the rapid deterioration in Japan’s economy continues due to the downturn in exports and production,” he said. “The labor market is also quickly deteriorating.”

The measures include support for the jobless, help for small businesses and steps to bolster nursing and medical services. It also calls for a government-affiliated entity to buy stocks directly from the market to stem steep equity declines.

The plan is worth 57 trillion yen overall including nonspending items such as tax cuts and credit guarantees, which Aso said was “the biggest in history.”

Aso said the new steps will be partially funded by issuing bonds.

Japan’s massive public debt now runs at 170 percent of GDP — the highest level among industrialized economies.

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