The government decided Monday that the supplementary budget for fiscal 2000 will not cover “IT cards” that would have subsidized tuition for Internet-related courses, government officials said.

The officials said the proposal, aimed at spreading the use of computers and the Internet by the general public, was scrapped because it was unlikely to win support from within the ruling coalition.

Under the plan, advocated by Economic Planning Agency chief Taichi Sakaiya, cards would be passed out to individuals over 20 who want to learn how to use PCs. The card holders would be eligible for subsidies covering half their tuition.

The idea is in line with a policy speech Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori made Thursday in which he envisioned Japan as a world leader in information technology.

However, criticism over the card proposal has emerged from within the ruling triumvirate, with some critics saying it is nothing more than an excuse to squander budgetary resources and that its target can never be achieved due to red tape at the municipal level.

The government will pursue an alternative plan, the officials said.

“Taking a demand-side policy like that . . . may be a little premature,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa told a regular news conference Monday, referring to the IT cards.

He said that it will be necessary to consider supply-side factors, such as the quality and quantity of computer instructors and lessons.

Oil reserves protected

Japan does not intend to tap its strategic oil reserves until the world’s oil supply is threatened, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa said Monday.

“We are not considering tapping the nation’s 160-day reserve at the moment,” he told a regular news conference.

But Tokyo will swiftly begin selling oil from its reserve, in consultation with other oil-consuming countries, when the world’s oil supply falls short, he added.

The United States, which decided Friday to sell 30 million barrels of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next 30 days, has not asked Japan to follow suit, he noted.

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