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Japan National Debt at Record High

June 23, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s fiscal spending campaign to boost the economy pushed the government’s national debt to a record high of $4.71 trillion as of March 31, the Finance Ministry said Friday.

The 492.97 trillion yen debt figure surpassed the previous record of 477.8 trillion yen ($4.57 trillion) at the end of December and is now almost equal to the nation’s annual gross domestic product, the ministry said.

The national debt totals exclude the debt of local governments.

Of the total, 343.133 trillion yen ($3.28 trillion) was in government bonds and another 105.643 trillion yen ($1.01 trillion) in borrowings, the ministry said. The remaining 44.193 trillion yen ($422.5 billion) was in financing bills that mature in 13 weeks.

The debt has soared over the last two years because of the implementation of several massive fiscal stimulus packages designed to pull the nation out of its longest slowdown since the end of World War II.

Japan’s public debt, which is national government debt plus local government debt, stands at more than 645 trillion yen ($6.1 trillion) _ or about 130 percent of gross domestic product.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has vowed to continue the spending program until the economy fully recovers, but some fear that more massive injections of public spending could hurt Japan’s long-term growth prospects.

Critics say that if the economy does not take off soon, policymakers may be forced to raise taxes to reduce debt.

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