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Japan mulls expanding fuel subsidy to curb energy costs

TOKYO (CNA) – Japan may expand a subsidy programme for gasoline and other fuels among measures under consideration to ease soaring energy costs, the Industry Minister said yesterday.

The measure will be part of a fresh relief package which Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered his Cabinet last Tuesday to put together by the end of April to cushion the economic blow from rising fuel and raw material prices.

“We are concerned that the weak yen, on top of escalated prices of oil and natural gas amid the Ukraine crisis, is having a negative impact on business activities and people’s daily life,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told a talk show by public broadcaster NHK.

To cushion the blow from higher fuel prices, the ministry may expand the subsidy scheme by lowering the base price and raising the payment ceiling, or combine the subsidy scheme with lifting a freeze on tax trigger clauses, Hagiuda said.

Japan implemented a temporary subsidy programme in January to mitigate a sharp rise in gasoline and other fuel prices after tight global supplies increased oil prices, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing a further spike in oil prices.

The ceiling on the subsidy was raised fivefold to JPY25 (USD0.20) a litre in March and the programme was recently extended till end-April from an earlier plan of end-March.

Hagiuda said the existing subsidy could be combined with the reintroduction of a “trigger clause” designed to trim taxes on gasoline and diesel when gasoline prices stay above JPY160 a litre for three months in a row.

Japan’s new Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda. PHOTO: CNA