The government seems poised to use a supplementary budget, again, as a back door to spending taxpayer money.

Using an extra budget as a sneaky way to ramp up expenditures in blatant disregard for its supposed role of supplementing the initial budget when reasonably necessary is an act of folly that has been committed by the government time and again.

In the first meeting of his fourth Cabinet, which was inaugurated on Nov. 1, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the formulation of a supplementary budget.

The extra spending package will fund some of the measures to promote Abe’s new signature economic policy initiatives to push through radical reforms for higher productivity and more effective human resources development, which will cost about 2 trillion yen ($17.54 billion) in total, according to the administration. Abe has christened the reforms as a “productivity revolution” and a “talent development revolution.”

The measures will be taken as they become ready for implementation.

But the current state of the Japanese economy doesn’t require any fresh fiscal stimulus. Still, lawmakers of the ruling coalition started clamoring for additional government spending through a supplementary budget around summer.

The Abe administration appears to be more than willing to respond to the chorus of calls for a spending increase. Many of the proposed programs and projects, however, are quite questionable in terms of necessity and effectiveness.

One notable example is a set of measures to prepare the agricultural sector for the expected economic partnership agreement with the European Union.

Japanese and EU trade negotiators are still in talks for the bilateral free trade pact with an eye to striking a deal by the end of the year.

The administration stresses the need to “enhance the domestic (agricultural) infrastructure” before the agreement is concluded.

But the government similarly crafted an extra spending plan to dole out aid to the sector when the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multilateral trade initiative was basically agreed to two years ago.

The TPP has yet to be put into force as the United States has withdrawn from the pact.

Does the Abe administration intend to do the same thing again without even assessing the effectiveness of the measures that have been taken?

The administration also plans to cobble together a package of measures to boost productivity within a month and fund some from the envisioned supplementary budget.

Improving productivity cannot be achieved overnight as if through a revolution, in the first place. Abe himself must know that well.

During the five years of his administration, Abe has come up with a raft of policy measures to stoke the nation’s economic growth. But Japan’s potential growth rate, a key indicator of its real economic might, has risen only slightly.

First, the administration should determine why the measures it has taken have failed to produce results.

The administration seems to be rushing into a new round of rough-and-ready, half-baked policy actions to emphasize its focus on economic growth. But such an approach would only end up as a big waste of taxpayer money.

Tucked into the third supplementary budget for the last fiscal year was 170 billion yen of defense spending including an outlay for studying a new system to intercept ballistic missiles.

This additional defense expenditure under an extra budget was apparently designed to curb growth in the initial defense budget.

Supplementary budgets tend to be approved swiftly without rigorous scrutiny by the government or the Diet.

It should not be forgotten that using extra budgets as a convenient loophole for additional spending has contributed to the deterioration of the nation’s fiscal health.

The administration seems to plan to finance the additional expenditures mainly with surplus funds from fiscal 2016 and the leftover money from the debt-servicing funds. It also intends to issue additional government bonds to pay for the new measures.

The administration recently decided to push back the deadline for meeting the key fiscal policy target of bringing the primary balance into a surplus from fiscal 2020.

The extra spending blueprint will tell a lot about the prime minister’s commitment to fiscal rehabilitation.

To be sure, there are some policy issues demanding urgent responses including policy support to areas trying to recover from disasters, including northern Kyushu, which suffered serious damage from torrential rains this summer.

Instead of determining the size of the supplementary budget first, the administration should carefully select urgently needed policy measures and then formulate a plan to finance them.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 3