Kishida eyes reward points system to ease electricity bills

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday the government plans to ease the impact of rising electricity prices on the public by awarding power-saving households points that can be used to help lower their utility bills.

At the first meeting of a government task force on rising prices ahead of a House of Councillors election next month, the prime minister pledged to protect people's lives and businesses by tackling soaring food and energy prices propelled by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Kishida said that besides creating the reward points system to reduce the burden on households, the government will swiftly implement a 13 trillion yen ($96.3 billion) spending measure partially to contain rising prices of wheat, fertilizer, livestock feed and energy.

Ahead of the task force meeting, Kishida also heard opinions of food companies on the rising prices of those items.

The recent rise in consumer prices has been caused by soaring costs of energy, fresh food and other food, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

With a recent opinion poll suggesting the majority of the public is dissatisfied with the government's response to rising prices, mitigating the impact of higher costs of living is expected to become a major issue in the upper house election on July 10.

Official campaigning for the election will start on Wednesday.

The government will also create a system under which power companies will buy saved portions of electricity from businesses that engage in further power saving.

The measures discussed at the task force meeting will form part of the government's effort to avoid electricity shortages this summer and winter.

Some electricity providers have already been awarding points to power-saving households.

"I want more people and companies to take part in electric power companies' initiatives to use electricity more efficiently," Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda said at a press conference after the meeting.

As the prices of goods and services increase, Kishida said the government also aims to raise the average minimum wage to at least 1,000 yen during the current fiscal year through March.

© Kyodo News