Asia

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - 22:42

JAPAN PRESS: Govt Mulls Gift Certificates for Low-Income Young


TOKYO (MNI) - Japan's government is considering handing out gift certificates to low-income young people in a supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 as consumer spending remains sluggish on a slow wage recovery, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported Thursday.

Government officials believe certificates for purchasing daily necessities would lead to spending, unlike cash handouts which could be saved, the Sankei said, adding that they plan to work out the details in the fiscal year starting on April 1.

The additional fiscal program would follow a similar measure for seniors and the ruling coalition would use it to gain voter support before the Upper House election expected in July, the daily said.

The Diet is expected to approve the fiscal 2016 budget by the end of the month. Government officials would not comment on the possibility of drafting an extra budget while the full-year budget is being debated in parliament.

Opposition lawmakers criticized the use of Y360 billion in the extra budget for fiscal 2015 which will be spent on one-off benefits to low-income households aged 65 or older. They said the government is ignoring other age groups.

"The Y30,000 per person benefits totaling Y360 billion are clearly cash handouts as they are delivered in May and June, just before the Upper House elections," Katsuya Okada, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said in parliamentary debate in January.

"Elderly people are not the only ones who are suffering. Among the working generation, only a limited number of people are feeling the fruit of Abenomics."

The average spending by households with two or more people fell a real 3.1% in January for the fifth straight year-on-year drop after slumping 4.4% in December as real income continued to fall. On the month core spending excluding housing, cars and other items slipped 0.2% for the first drop in two months, indicating a weak start to Q1 GDP.

Spending by households whose main income earners are aged 34 or younger plunged 11.7% on year in January while spending by those aged 35 to 39 rose 6.3%.

--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-2175-0040; email: hiroshi.inoue@mni-news.com
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-4670-5309; email: max.sato@mni-news.com

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