Japan to Spend $99B in New Stimulus

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has ordered more than 10 trillion yen ($99 billion) in fresh spending to rescue the world's second-biggest economy from its deepest recession since World War II.

The figure amounts to more than 2 percent of Japan's gross domestic product, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano told reporters Monday after meeting with Aso.

The new stimulus package comes on top of 12 trillion yen in fiscal steps already approved by lawmakers in the past few months.

"These are the instructions I have received (from the prime minister), so I would like to work toward this goal," Yosano said.

The latest package will include measures to help contract workers and small businesses, boost regional economies, expand "green" technologies and support elderly care, said Yasunaga Matsuki, a spokesman at the Ministry of Finance.

Officials aim to finalize details of the latest package by Friday and then submit the extra budget to parliament soon after, Matsuki said.

Japan has been hit particularly hard by the global slowdown, which has sapped foreign sales of its cars and gadgets. Exporters including Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. have slashed production and jobs in response.

The country's unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent in February, and analysts forecast more job cuts in the months ahead.

Japan's gross domestic product shrank by an alarming 12.1 percent annual rate in the October-December period and almost certainly contracted further in the first quarter.

Since taking office in September, Aso has repeatedly said that restoring Japan's economy is the top priority of his government.

Lawmakers last month passed a record 88.5 trillion yen budget for this fiscal year, which started April 1.

Officials declined Monday to comment on where they would find extra money, though Aso has said recently that he would turn to issuing bonds if needed.