TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Friday a 2 trillion yen ($19.2 billion) fund to assist ambitious green projects over the next decade as part of additional stimulus measures in response to COVID-19.
Suga revealed the economic package during a news conference at the end of the Diet session.
"Our country needs a source of growth post-coronavirus," he said. "The core of that will be green and digital." Suga vowed to boost the economy through green investment and digital innovation.
The fund would "continue to support companies engaged in ambitious innovation [in environmental areas] for the next 10 years," he pledged.
"We see hydrogen, of which there is inexhaustible deposits, as a new power source," Suga said. "We will create hydrogen airplanes and hydrogen cargo ships."
The government will promote the development of low-cost storage batteries that will be key to electric cars and renewable energy, as well as carbon-recycling technology to turn emitted greenhouse gases into plastics and fuel, he said.
The economic measures will be decided on by the cabinet next week.
To achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, Suga emphasized that he was "aiming for zero CO2 emissions from automobiles" and planned to "set systems and regulations to maximize the introduction of electric vehicles" to the Japanese market.
Regarding so-called 6G communications technology, Suga said that "the government will take the lead in research and development so that it can lead the world" in the new technology sector. He pledged to allocate more than 1 trillion yen for related investments, including the digitization of the government.
In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, he said his government "will secure a sufficient reserve fund to be able to respond to whatever happens." Suga stressed this would "secure peace of mind for citizens and lay the foundation for future growth."
He explained that the government would provide 50,000 yen to low-income, single-parent households by the end of the year. They will be paid an additional 30,000 yen for a second child, and for subsequent children. This will come from the reserve fund, the details of which will be decided by the end of this year.
The prime minister said he intended to extend the special measures to raise the employment adjustment subsidy, paid to companies to keep workers on, to the maximum daily amount of 15,000 yen. He also mentioned that interest-free and unsecured loans offered by the Japan Finance Corp. would continue until the first half of 2021.
Regarding the current state of COVID-19 infections, he said new cases and the number of severe infections were at the highest levels so far. "We are responding with a strong sense of crisis," he said.
"It is the government's greatest responsibility to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people," he emphasized.
Regarding the shortening of business hours that restaurants had been requested to make, he said he would "firmly support all restaurants that cooperated."
Suga once again called on Japanese citizens for their cooperation in infection-prevention measures, such as wearing masks.
"We will do our best to prepare," he said, adding that "top priority was being given to the safety and efficacy" of the supply of vaccines.