• Kyodo

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The government plans to triple the number of duty-free shops in local tourist spots around the country to 20,000 by 2020 to try to lure more foreign tourists. It will also move up its 2020 goal of expanding farm and fishery exports to ¥1 trillion, government sources said Wednesday.

In a draft of the government’s growth strategy to be formulated by the end of this month, the government also plans to help arrange visits for around 200 Japanese companies to Silicon Valley in California over five years from next April, to help them procure funds and find business partners, the sources said.

Other plans include subsidies for companies hiring experienced middle-aged workers as a way to boost personal income and corporate productivity and to make use of available skills, the sources said.

Measures will also be drafted by March 31, 2016, to turn nonregular workers into regular employees as part of efforts to assist female career development.

Stimulating growth is vital to the government aim of pursuing nominal economic growth of more than 3 percent, needed to achieve its fiscal reform goal of turning its primary balance into a surplus by fiscal 2020.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the government proposed reducing the ratio of the primary balance deficit to GDP to 1 percent by fiscal 2018. The projection for the current year is 3.3 percent.

“It is important to tackle economic and fiscal reform speedily without missing a chance at this time when we are making progress toward economic revival,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the meeting.

GDP growth for the January-to-March quarter was recently revised upward to an annualized real 3.9 percent, from an initially estimated 2.4 percent, reflecting strong corporate spending.

Under the policy guidelines to be reflected in compiling the fiscal 2016 budget, the government also proposed drawing up an economic and fiscal revival plan for fiscal 2016 to 2020.

To achieve the goal of turning the primary balance — the difference between tax revenue and government spending on everything except interest on debt — into a surplus, the government aims to increase revenue via economic growth, while curbing social security spending.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Abe instructed Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki to speed up efforts to review social security expenses in such areas as medical service fees and pharmaceutical prices.

Under the basic policy of “no fiscal soundness without economic revitalization,” the government said it will respond swiftly if necessary to ensure a suitable environment for completing the doubling of the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in fiscal 2017.

Japan’s fiscal health is the worst among major developed economies, with public debt exceeding 200 percent of nominal GDP, due mainly to swelling social security costs for the aging population.