TOKYO: The Japanese government said Friday that it has decided to temporarily stop accepting applications to undertake back-office work for its "Go To Campaign" for tourism promotion, a key stimulus measure drawn up to deal with the fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension of the tender process comes as the government is being grilled over the program by opposition parties, which say that the planned consignment fee of some 300 billion yen for the work is extremely high.
The government initially planned to launch the program in late July, after closing applications for contractors on Monday. But the latest move is likely to push back the launch, casting a cloud over the government's aim of achieving a V-shaped economic recovery after the virus crisis settles down.
The program is aimed at helping travel agencies, restaurant operators and other tourism-related companies hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, by stimulating demand through the distribution of coupons and loyalty points to customers.
The government is set to consider an alternative plan in which the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will select their own contractors for clerical work in their respective fields, aiming to lower the consignment fee for each part of the process.
The industry ministry, which oversees the project, initially planned to outsource all of the back-office work to a consortium of companies.
The scale of the 1,679.4-billion-yen project, however, meant that only a few organizations have the capacity to handle the work. In addition, the controversy over consignment fees has led companies to shy away from bidding, with only one company having filed an application since the tender started on May 26.
An industry ministry official said Friday that the start of the campaign may be delayed slightly as a result of the change.
Entities to be selected to take on the work will be tasked with a variety of responsibilities such as building the necessary computer systems, operating a call center and engaging in public relations activities.