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Maeda eyes Eco-point plan to revive Tohoku

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

New transport minister Takeshi Maeda says he wants to bring back the Housing Eco-point incentive system to achieve low-carbon, sustainable cities in the quake- and tsunami-hit Tohoku region.

During an interview with The Japan Times and other media organizations Thursday, Maeda said he wants not only to bring back the Eco-point system for housing, which ended in July, but also to expand the program to turn Tohoku into a model area for ecological cities.

“Limited to Tohoku’s reconstruction, I want to (bring back) and expand the Housing Eco-point incentive system,” said Maeda, who is serving as a Cabinet minister for the first time.

The Housing Eco-point program was created in December 2009 to promote environmental conservation as well as to boost housing sales. Buyers of energy-efficient homes, or owners who refurbished their homes to conserve energy, received points that could be exchanged for a range of products and services.

Initially planned to run through the end of this year, the program was shut down at the end of July due to an overwhelming number of applications.

Additionally, Maeda said he will consider expanding a toll-free expressway program that currently applies only to disaster victims in the Tohoku region.

On June 20, the transport ministry waived the tolls on Tohoku expressways to certified victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

A similar exemption for buses and trucks was ended after a number of abuses were uncovered.

Asked about recent remarks by Finance Minister Jun Azumi that the central government is considering selling some of its holdings in subway operator Tokyo Metro Co., Maeda said the central government needs to discuss it with the metropolitan government. Currently, the central government owns 53 percent of Tokyo Metro shares, with the metropolitan government holding the remaining 47 percent.

“(Tokyo Metro) is the goose that lays the golden eggs. The central government and the metropolitan government are fostering it. So I wonder if it grows by only listening to one side,” Maeda said.

The 73-year-old Nara native worked in the former Construction Ministry before entering the world of politics in 1986.