Eco-point plan may extend to March

Kyodo News

The government is looking at a three-month extension to March for the Eco-point subsidy program for purchases of energy-efficient appliances to encourage consumer spending, economy minister Masayuki Naoshima said Tuesday.

The move, part of the new economic stimulus package, reflects the administration’s concerns about “uncertainty over the economy . . . given the recent strength of the yen,” Naoshima said.

The incentive program gives Eco-points for the purchase of certain types of energy-efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs, allowing the buyers to exchange the points later for other goods and services.

The system was introduced in May 2009 under the government led by the Liberal Democratic Party with last March as the original deadline.

The Democratic Party of Japan expanded the program and extended the deadline to this coming December in hopes of bossing sluggish household spending.

But Naoshima reiterated this kind of incentive program is simply “pre-empting the demand,” suggesting the possible extension could be for a limited period and cover a shorter list of products.

He said earlier the program “definitely has side effects,” noting that sharp falls in consumer spending are natural after a surge in demand for certain products under incentive programs.