Japan's cabinet approved 3.5 trillion yen (HK$225 billion) in fresh stimulus for the ailing economy, pledging to get growth back on track and restore the country's precarious public finances. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is wrapping up his second year in office hard-pressed to salvage a recovery that fizzled into recession after a sales-tax increase in April. The stimulus plan endorsed yesterday includes 600 billion yen earmarked for stagnant regional economies. It also lays out Abe's vision for dealing with longer-term trends such as Japan's surging public debt and a declining and ageing population. "A strong economy is the wellspring of Japan's national strength," said a summary of the plan released by the government. The government is sticking to its pledge to balance its budget by 2020, despite a recent decision by Abe to defer a tax increase due for next year until April 2017. After taking office for a third term in a snap election this month, the prime minister faces growing pressure to show that his "Abenomics" strategy for nurturing growth through inflation can succeed. The stimulus endorsed yesterday is to be paid for out of previously unused budget allocations. Instead of the "trickle down" approach of many earlier policies, some support planned for local governments will be handouts to be used as shopping vouchers to entice people to spend more. Overall, 1.2 trillion yen will go to consumers and businesses and 1.7 trillion yen is allocated for disaster prevention and reconstruction of stricken areas, such as the northeast coast, still recovering from the devastation of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The plan is packed full of goodies, such as help for rice farmers because of price declines and relief for truckers and fishermen from high fuel costs. But it also includes items addressing social ills, such as measures against suicide and child abuse. The government will also provide funds to back loans to small- and medium-sized businesses that have struggled with rising costs due to a weakening of the yen, which has boosted the prices Japanese pay for energy, food and other imported goods. Another key aim is to ensure improved job prospects for younger Japanese in regions that are suffering from severe population declines as jobseekers crowd into the cities. One proposal calls for moving research institutes to the provinces, away from Tokyo.