Japan's budget requests likely hit new record

Japan's ministries and agencies have submitted their budget requests for the coming fiscal year. The total is about 110 trillion yen, or about a trillion dollars, a record for the fourth straight year.

The largest request comes from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. It is asking for about 310 billion dollars, the most ever by a ministry or agency. Spending on medical and nursing care and other social security programs keeps rising as the population ages.

The cost of servicing Japan's public debt is also up significantly. Redemption and interest payments on government bonds are pegged at more than 270 billion dollars. That's over 50 billion dollars higher than in the initial budget for the current fiscal year.

The Defense Ministry is asking for about 50 billion dollars. This includes the cost of buying ships to transport defense personnel, with an eye on China's increasing maritime activities.

The new digital agency set to be launched this week has requested nearly 5 billion dollars.

The fight against the coronavirus pandemic is also reflected the budget requests. The Education and Science Ministry wants roughly 60 million dollars to support university research into the domestic development and production of vaccines.

The Health Ministry is looking for about 1.8 million dollars to create a crisis management center to deal with infectious diseases.