ISTANBUL

Japan on Friday approved a $490 billion economic package to stimulate the country’s economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approved the record economic stimulus package in fiscal spending to “weather the prolonged fallout from the coronavirus pandemic”, Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.

The package will include funds from the private sector and has ingredients from Kishida’s electoral promises, including to “narrow the income gap through pay hikes and securing the nation’s economic security interests.”

Kishida was elected to the top office in early October.

The pandemic has hit Japan hard, the world’s third-largest economy which witnessed a record gross domestic product loss of 27.8% in the first quarter of last fiscal year when the COVID-19 was raging.

Data released early this week show Japan posted a trade deficit of 67.37 billion yen ($586 million) in October, below expectations.

In the same month a year earlier, the figure was a surplus of 840.80 billion yen ($7.4 billion).

This was the third straight month of a trade deficit, with exports rising 9.4% year-on-year to 7.1 billion yen ($62.4 million) while imports jumped 26.7% to 7.2 billion yen ($62.5 million).

Japan’s exports slowed down in the eight months up to October, as car shipments kept slumping.

Global supply constraints are still having a negative impact on the economy as car shipments continued to shrink.

While exports of steel and semiconductor manufacturing equipment continued to post gains, exports of cars slumped by more than a third as major automakers cut production due to parts shortages.

Japan has reported over 1.7 million COVID-19 cases, including 18,342 deaths, since the pandemic began.

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