Japan approves record-high budget, focusing on defence and economic recovery for the fiscal 2016-17. The $44 billion defence budget is Japan’s largest ever and is the fourth straight annual increase under conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.The general-account budget for the fiscal year starting next April also features higher spending on defence and official development assistance, reflecting Abe’s intention to expand the country’s security and diplomatic presence.
The proposed budget underscores the challenge Abe faces in striking a balance between the need to stimulate the flagging economy ahead of an upper house election and to curb the world’s heaviest public debt burden at the same time. Tax revenue is estimated at a 25-year high of 57.6 trillion yen on the back of rising corporate profits, allowing Tokyo to cut fresh borrowing to an eight-year low of 34.43 trillion yen.
Dispute with China
Japan is bolstering it defence of its southern islands in the East China Sea, where it has a territorial dispute with China.
Japan seeks to ensure security in the waters and airspace around the island nation amid China’s increasingly assertive military posturing in the region. By 2023, the Ministry of defence plans to convert seven out of the current 15 Ground Self-defence Force (GSDF) brigades and divisions into mobile divisions and brigades that can be more easily transferred to the East China Sea in the event of a crisis. A Japanese division usually consists of around 8,000 troops, whereas a brigade fields around 4,000.
Japan’s major purchases include:
- 173 billion yen for an Aegis-equipped anti-ballistic missile ship.
- 108 billion yen for six F-35A fighter aircraft.
- 103 billion yen for 17 SH-60K patrol helicopters.
- The figure also includes increased funding for the realignment of U.S. troops in Japan and a new government plane for use by the prime minister on foreign trips.