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Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi pledged Friday that the government will do all it can to promote a merchandise coupon scheme and help revitalize local economies.

Speaking before a plenary session of the Upper House, Obuchi expressed his drive to carry forward the plan, in which 30,000 yen worth of coupons would be issued to those aged 65 or older as well as to families with children 15 years old or younger.

“(The government) will do all it can to carry out the plan smoothly while informing people of the purpose and contents of the coupons scheme,” Obuchi said in response to a question by Toshiko Hamayotsu from New Komeito, which advocates the coupon scheme as a major policy for boosting consumption.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed late last year to provide merchandise coupons to certain groups of people and the coupon scheme worth 700 billion yen was included in the third supplementary budget for fiscal 1998.

During Friday’s session, Hamayotsu questioned the government’s current stance on the scheme, which is scheduled to be implemented in about 80 percent of municipalities in March.

Obuchi’s pledge is widely taken as an attempt to seek cooperation from New Komeito, the second largest opposition party, in passing a series of crucial bills in the Upper House.

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