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Cabinet OKs supplementary budget bill to support disaster recovery, air con in schools

In this June 5, 2018 file photo, students at Oji Junior High School in the city of Oita are thrilled following the installation of an air conditioner in a classroom. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Oct. 15 approved a supplementary budget bill of 935.6 billion yen for fiscal 2018, of which 727.5 billion yen will be allocated to support reconstruction work from a series of recent natural disasters.

Abe intends to submit the draft budget to an extraordinary Diet session to be convened later this month for its early adoption.

The government plans to allocate 82.2 billion yen of the funds to install air conditioners in 170,000 classrooms in public elementary and junior high schools, kindergartens, and special schools across Japan. It aims to have the devices fitted ahead of next summer as an urgent measure to prevent children from suffering heatstroke.

Apart from installing air conditioner units, 25.9 billion yen will be used to revamp or dismantle concrete block walls that are deemed to be at risk of collapse, as part of emergency safety measures for schools in response to two fatalities caused by wall collapses due to the strong quake that hit northern Osaka Prefecture in June this year.

The proposed extra budget will finance recovery efforts from natural disasters -- 503.4 billion yen for damage from torrential rains that flooded wide areas of western Japan in July, 118.8 billion yen for damage from the deadly earthquake that struck Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido on Sept 6, and 105.3 billion yen for other disasters including Typhoon Jebi that hit western Japan on Sept. 4 and the strong temblor that jolted northern Osaka Prefecture in June. The funds will be used to remove disaster debris and to support affected small- to medium-size businesses, as well as farmers.

In addition, the government added 100 billion yen to the reserve account as over half of the funds set aside in the initial fiscal 2018 budget have been spent on responses to natural disasters. It is the first time in 57 years that funds will be earmarked for the reserve account in a supplementary budget.

Finance resources for the supplementary budget will come from 695 billion yen in construction bonds, 236.4 billion yen remaining from the budget for fiscal 2017, and 4.2 billion yen in non-tax revenue.

(Japanese original by Wataru Okubo, Business News Department)

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