- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

TOKYO | 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, Mr. 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 Mr. Aso took office in September, lawmakers have approved two stimulus packages worth $120 billion in 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 plan is worth $570 billion overall, including nonspending items such as tax cuts and credit guarantees, which Mr. Aso said was “the biggest in history.”

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 declines in share prices.

Part of the proposal includes an incentive to encourage car purchases similar to the “cash for clunkers” program debated in the U.S. Congress. Japan, home to several major automakers, will give $2,500 to consumers who trade in a car 13 years or older for a more fuel-efficient car.

The government will help homes and schools install solar panels, and give consumers shopping points when they buy energy-efficient appliances, Mr. Aso said.

Mr. Aso, who on Thursday outlined his vision for Japan through 2020, urged the country to shift its focus from exports to domestic sectors poised for major growth, including “green” technologies, medical services and pop culture.

The long-term plan aims to increase domestic demand by at least $400 billion within three years and add between 1.4 million and 2 million new jobs. By 2020, Mr. Aso wants to lift GNP by $1.2 trillion and create 4 million jobs.

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