Tokyo, Oct. 30 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government will take steps to deliver on a points reward program that started at the beginning of October if the budget for the initiative is seen running out, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama has said.
The state-led program, which is designed to cushion the impact of the consumption tax hike to 10 pct from 8 pct on Oct. 1, rewards points of up to 5 pct of the value of purchase to shoppers making cashless payments. The government has earmarked some 180 billion yen until the end of March 2020 to finance the program.
In the first two weeks, the daily amount of rebates came to about one billion yen, Kajiyama said in an interview with Jiji Press and other media organizations.
“About 610,000 shops have joined the program, and we are checking the situation every week so that we can take steps flexibly,” he said. “While some people say that the budget will dry up, we’ll study measures as needed to steadily operate the program,” which will continue until the end of June next year.
“Cashless payment is expected to become commonplace in the future,” Kajiyama said, noting that he himself uses credit cards, a transport-linked e-money card and quick response, or QR, code-based smartphone payments.
Regarding a high-profile gift-receiving scandal involving Kansai Electric Power Co. <9503>, Kajiyama said he wants a third-party panel set up by the firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter and hold full-fledged discussions on preventive measures.
Executives at the power supplier have been found receiving lavish gifts and money from a former deputy mayor of the town of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, which hosts the company’s Takahama nuclear power station.
The committee aims to produce its report by the of the year. But the minister indicated that the compilation of the report may be delayed as the panel is set to comprehensively conduct its probe.
Kajiyama said his ministry has instructed other power suppliers to check their law compliance.
Elsewhere in the interview, Kajiyama said, “There is no change in the stance of introducing renewable energy as much as possible and cutting (the country’s) dependence on nuclear energy.” At the same time, however, he said, “In reality, there are hurdles in terms of power grids and costs.
“People changed their mindset after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami (that struck mainly the Tohoku northeastern Japan region) and the subsequent accident at Tokyo Eclectic Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and we will do what we should while watching the reality,” he said.
Kajiyama assumed the ministerial post last Friday, following the resignation of his predecessor, Isshu Sugawara, for suspected violations of the public offices election law.