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Japan to allow local gov'ts to provide 100,000-yen handout without coupons: PM Kishida

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers a question from Kenta Izumi, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, during a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Dec. 8, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Dec. 8 that the government would make it possible for local bodies to provide a 100,000-yen (approx. $880) handout for each child entirely in cash instead of supplying half the amount in coupons.

    The government has planned a stimulus package for households raising children that would provide 50,000 yen in cash and 50,000 yen in coupons for each child aged 18 or under. The coupons could be used to purchase items households need to raise their children, but the cost involved in delivering the coupons has drawn criticism.

    "We will make it possible to provide the (full) amount in cash, according to the circumstances in each local jurisdiction," Kishida said. "We will listen to the opinions of local governments on the circumstances under which cash payments can be made, and consider concrete methods."

    Several local bodies have announced plans to provide the whole amount in cash. The government, however, remains reluctant to make a single lump-sum payment of 100,000 yen to each child, and there is a high possibility that many of the local bodies that opt to avoid coupons will make the payment in two installments.

    Regarding tax reform for fiscal 2022, Kishida said the government would drastically strengthen the tax system for wage increases, while corporate tax exemptions would be increased by up to 30% for major companies and 40% for small and medium-sized firms. The current maximum exemption rate is 20% for large firms and 25% for smaller businesses.

    Regarding Japan's response to the coronavirus, Kenta Izumi, the newly elected leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said that measures to counter the omicron variant were needed. As for vaccine booster shots, he pointed out that new vaccine supplies would be needed soon after the beginning of next year and asked whether Japan could secure supplies.

    Kishida responded, "We are hoping to ascertain the effect of existing vaccines on the omicron variant as soon as possible, and then present the scope and methods of bringing forward (booster shots) based on priorities." Previously the government had planned the administration of booster shots eight months after a person's second vaccination in principle, but in his policy speech on Dec. 6, Kishida said that the interval would be shortened.

    (Japanese original by Soon Lee and Shu Hatakeyama, Political News Department)

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