General Policy Speech by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the 161st Session of the Diet
October 12, 2004
This year has seen numerous disasters due to heavy rains and typhoons, taking the lives of many people. I hereby offer my heartfelt condolences to those people who have suffered losses due to these disasters. We will improve disaster prevention measures such as expediting the dissemination of information and the rescue of the elderly, together with efforts for the prompt restoration and reconstruction of the affected areas. Thus we will advance our efforts in creating Japan as a country that is highly resilient to disasters.
Since the bursting of the bubble economy, Japan has suffered a long period of economic stagnation, and with a backdrop of increasing unemployment and bankruptcies, people lost confidence in their own economy, and pessimistic views on the future of Japan came to be emphasized. This reality was rooted in the fact that the systems in Japan which have functioned properly up to then, were not necessarily capable of responding to the economy and society of the 21st century.
Since my appointment as Prime Minister, I have exerted all efforts for the promotion of reforms that will draw on the will of individuals and companies to take up challenges, and to elicit independence in the regions without relying on national public spending such as public works. I have done so under the conviction that "without structural reform there will be no rebirth or growth in Japan." As I have advanced the reform of "leave to the private sector what it can do" and "leave to the localities what they can do," the buds of reform are now being nurtured.
The next stage of realizing the privatization of the postal services and the reform package of three issues is vital to whether the "buds of structural reforms" will grow into a "large tree." I have recently reshuffled my Cabinet to organize a structure that will further accelerate the process of the reforms. With the new Cabinet, I will resolutely carry out the reforms as planned to create a vibrant society full of confidence and pride. We will also seek for Japan to actively contribute to the peace and stability of the world as a member of the international community.
These reforms cannot be advanced without public trust in politics. I take very seriously the continued scandals related to political funds. It is for politics to show the right way. "The way is corrected with the political leaders correcting their conducts and showing people the right way." These words by Confucius indicate that politics should not tolerate misconduct and corruption but instead should create an ordered society by setting a good example. His words must be taken to heart by every political representative and their morals should be heightened accordingly. I will engage in political reform that aims to establish trust in politics.
(Thorough Dissemination of the Policies "From Public Sector to Private Sector" and "From the State to the Regions")
Under the policy of "from public sector to private sector," I have promoted regulatory reforms and the abolition or privatization of special public corporations.
The privatization of the postal services will be the largest reform since the Meiji-era and is at the heart of the reforms of the Koizumi Cabinet. Last month, the government decided on its basic policy. We will now give all our efforts in formulating the details of the bill which takes into account the perspectives of the people, who are the users of the services. The bill on the privatization of the postal services will be submitted to the next regular Diet session, and privatization will take place in April 2007.
Currently Japan Post employs 400,000 personnel, but is the postal services something that can only be managed by civil servants? We need a system that allows effective and efficient use of the huge fund base in the private sector comprised of postal savings and postal life insurance, amounting to 350 trillion yen. The privatization must be advanced to provide better and more convenient services and to further strengthen current management practices, while taking full advantage of the nationwide network of post offices.
The four highway-related public corporations will be privatized during the next fiscal year. With regard to the national highways, we will almost halve the project expenditure for toll roads from their initial figure of approximately 20 trillion yen through drastically reducing construction costs by reviewing standards. The toll charges too, which have never in the past been reduced, will be cut by 10% on average from next fiscal year, with the introduction of a discount system that utilizes the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system. This reduction in toll charges will be implemented from next month where applicable.
In order to realize the policy of "leave to the localities what they can do," which has been met with approval for its general principle, I have given instructions for the reform package of three issues to be implemented, which includes reduction of state subsidies, promotion of tax resources transfer from the central to local governments and review of local allocation tax. The government will earnestly consider the reform plan on state subsidies compiled by regional organizations this August through a number of active discussions, and by the end of 2004 bring forth a general picture for the reform package: reform of state subsidies to reduce the amount by roughly three trillion yen over a two-year period starting from the next fiscal year, in addition to the one trillion yen reduction to be achieved this fiscal year, the transfer of tax resources from the central to local governments, and reform of local allocation tax.
We will continue to promote mergers of municipalities.
We will advance reforms in the areas with which the public entities were highly involved in the past. The government will clarify the scope of operations that must be managed by the public entities and work towards the launch of tests for market introduction by conducting competitive tenders, with equal opportunities given to both the public and private sectors, aiming to promote entry of the private entities into the public sector market. This will realize the provision of high-quality public services at a competitive price. Together with this, the government will be also lifting the ban on mixed insurance system for medical care expenses.
We will promote the reform of fiscal structure in order for the government, by the early 2010s, to manage its policy-related expenditures through tax revenues of that fiscal year without relying on new and additional loans. We will also advance discussions on the tax system in line with the reform package of three issues and the review of the social security system.
We will reform the civil service system so as to ensure the trust of the people in our public administration and to utilize the competence of the civil servants to its fullest. Together with this, we will establish a new policy for administrative reform.
(Revival of Regions and Economic Revitalization)
With the advancement of structural reforms, we have witnessed a steady economic recovery led by private sector, mainly through personal consumption and capital investment. The government will continue working together with the Bank of Japan to assure that the breakaway from deflation is achieved.
We will normalize the issue of non-performing loans by the end of this fiscal year, and lift the ban on pay-offs as planned starting April 2005.
Regional differences can be noted regarding small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), with some facing difficulties. Sustainable economic growth cannot be expected without the revival of the regions and the revitalization of SME.
Currently in 15 regions, the government is using private companies to provide counseling and training sessions on employment to roughly 1,000 young people on a daily basis. Furthermore, it is providing assistance to over 500 revitalization plans, while responding to 4,700 inquiries from SME at the consultation windows established in each prefecture throughout Japan. We will continue to develop safety nets, such as employment measures that closely work together with the regions and streamlining supplies of funds to SME.
Since last February, nearly 17,000 companies have been launched as a result of approving the minimum capital requirement for the start-up of business to one yen, which is at a rate of approximately 30 people starting a company per day. Many people have realized their dreams, such as a housewife who started a wedding dress company, with her collection being shown in Paris, or a former salaried worker selling rice balls using local ingredients that he himself selects by utilizing his experience in purchasing at a major supermarket. We will support the development of new businesses to elicit that spirit of challenge.
Last year I announced a plan to double the number of foreign tourists to Japan to 10 million people by 2010. Across the country, people known as "Charisma Ambassadors of Tourism" are working together with local residents to uncover their still hidden gems that could attract tourists and transmit information concerning the charms and appeal of such tourism resources. These regions and cities are now striving to attract people from other places and so that the residents themselves could be pride of their own region, using their knowledge and ingenuity. This July, the Ancient Roads of Kumano has been inscribed on World Heritage List, the twelfth in Japan. The government will also endeavor to develop an environment which will enable foreigners to travel to Japan with greater ease through increases in exemptions from visa requirements and by expanding the number of signs and directions provided in foreign languages, which will lead to the revitalization of the regional economy through each region advancing measures to attract more tourists, taking advantage of the surrounding nature and scenery. In addition, the government will aim for the development of the regions and cities through regulatory reform utilizing the special zone system and the state subsidy system reform.
The announcement by the Russian Government on its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has marked a major step forward towards its entry into force. We will engage in efforts to counter global warming so as to achieve the reduction goal for greenhouse gas emissions.
Since taking office as Prime Minister, I have concentrated my efforts on keeping a balance between environmental protection and economic development utilizing scientific technology. We will convert the entire fleet of official vehicles to low-emission vehicles (LEV) by the end of this fiscal year. The technological development of private companies has picked up its pace magnificently, and close to 70% of the newly purchased vehicles in the private sector are LEV. Starting next year, we will implement the world's highest standard for emissions regulations on diesel vehicles as well as recycling vehicles. It is our conviction that the development and spread of environmental friendly science and technology will be conducive to economic development.
Promotion of information technology (IT) strategy is extremely effective in improving convenience in everyday living, revitalizing the economy and constructing a streamlined and efficient government. As such, we will strive to create "the world's most advanced IT nation" by next year.
We will submit a bill on the amendment of the Anti-Monopoly Law in order to facilitate fair and free competition among private companies.
(Safety and Reassurance in Daily Life)
With "life of eighty years" Japan has come to enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world. Immediately after World War II the number of children born each year was 2.7 million, but that figure has now decreased to below the 1.2 million level, and the trend is continuing whereby on the one hand the number of people who receive a pension is increasing, while conversely the number of children and grandchildren who support them is falling. In today's world, in which we have realized a "society that can enjoy long life," we are faced with the enormous challenge to address the question of how to ensure that social security, supported by the pillars of pension, medical care and long-term care, can be sustained in the future. During the recent deliberations of the laws on pension reform, the three parties of the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito agreed to comprehensively review the entire social security system, including the issue of unifying the pension plans. In the course of actualizing such reform, it is incumbent upon us to respond to each and every difficult issue regarding the modalities for society and the economy as a whole, including how to assess various forms of income in an equitable manner, the ideal combination of contributions and tax revenues as a financial resource, and an optimal balance for the level of benefit and burden. This is an issue that requires the ruling coalition and the opposition parties to look beyond their party frameworks and initiate consultations as quickly as possible. With the participation of economic and labor circles, the government is also currently advancing discussions on just such a comprehensive review.
With regard to the Social Insurance Agency, various issues have been pointed out, including the difficulty in using their counter services, the lack of attention to management of personal information, opacity in use of pension premiums, and the incompleteness of measures to deal with the issue of non-payment of insurance premiums. With the appointment of a person hailing from the private sector to the position of Commissioner of the Social Insurance Agency, we are making full efforts to arouse a private-sector mindset to drastically reform work content and organization, which will lead to the realization of a "kind, efficient, and accurate" service for the people of Japan.
One of the new challenges we face as a society that has the longest life expectancy in the world is to build a "society which can live happily to old age." We will improve the cure rate for cancer through research and development of new medical technologies, and medicine and improvement of medical system. We will also prevent so-called lifestyle-related diseases such as heart infarction and cerebral stroke to realize a longevity society that is in good health and with vitality. Sporting are vital activities in any bright and health lifestyle. In addition to cultivating and supporting top-level athletes who provide a source of inspiration and dreams for the people of Japan, we will create an environment in which each and every person can, throughout the course of their entire life, enjoy easy access to sports wherever they live.
The improvement of nursery centers is the fervent wish of people who are bringing up children and working at the same time. The number of children accepted into nursery centers will be increased by 150,000 by the end of this fiscal year in an effort to achieve zero waiting for day care program as I pledged in my first policy speech after my appointment as Prime Minister. Recently even this increase has proved to be insufficient, and so we will continue to construct the measures required to eliminating waiting lists for nursery centers.
The foundation for the building of a nation in a new era is its people. In addition to achieving the cultivation of solid academic prowess through small group instructions and instruction based on the level of proficiency, we will work to achieve education aimed at nurturing the heart and the mind through volunteer activities and also one that nurtures a sense for career and work through vocational experience. We will vigorously engage in the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, based on nationwide discussions.
Through the creation of a high court devoted to intellectual property cases, the acceleration of patent examinations and tightening measures to prevent counterfeit copies at Customs, we are proceeding steadily towards our objective of Japan as a "nation founded on intellectual property." We will be proceeding towards the creation of a nation built on such cultural wealth through the promotion of culture and arts such as films, animations, Noh and Kabuki, that attract people both at home and abroad,.
While the increasing number of incidences of crime has actually reduced last year, we must revive "Japan, the safest county in the world" through enhancing anti-crime measures. In addition to eliminating "empty Koban," we will revive urban areas such as Kabukicho in Shinjuku, where many crimes occur, transforming them into attractive areas that are safe to walk around. We will review the Penal Code to strengthen sentences for malicious crimes such as murder and criminal assault.
We will continue to implement judicial system reform in order to realize a society where people can have better access to judicial services.
Over three years have passed since the simultaneous terrorist attacks in the United States, and terrorist attacks are still occurring frequently in regions around the world. The hostage crisis at a school in the Russian Federation last month resulted in an enormous number of victims, including many children. Malicious acts of terrorism are unforgivable. We will continue to make all efforts for terrorism prevention, including the introduction of examination at immigration that utilizes new technology to scan a person's face, the introduction of a sky-marshal system whereby police officers are placed on aircraft, and measures to stop the funding of terrorism through cooperation by countries concerned.
In ensuring food safety and public trust in food safety, it is essential that measures are taken based upon a consumer perspective. With regard to the issue of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), we will, based on scientific evidence, review current domestic measures and enter into consultations with the United States concerning the resumption of beef imports.
We will proceed with agricultural policy reform, such as prioritizing assistance for highly motivated and capable enterprises in order to strengthen agricultural competitiveness.
(Foreign Policy and Security)
The peace and stability of the world are essential for the safety and prosperity of Japan. With the Japan-US alliance and international cooperation as the basis for Japan's foreign policy we will actively contribute to international tasks.
In my address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, I expressed Japan's resolve to be a permanent member of the Security Council. Reform of the United Nations is essential in order for the international community to effectively address the challenges it faces today. Japan has been actively involved in reconstruction assistance activities and peacekeeping operations overseas, and as such, can join the decision-making process of the Security Council, and assume a major role in international peace and stability.
We will continue to engage in consultations with the United States on the realignment of US Forces stationed in Japan, from the perspective of ensuring Japan's security in a manner consistent with the international environment of the 21st century and reducing the excessive burden on local residents such as the people in Okinawa.
Although the return to Japan of eight family members of the abductees was realized as a result of my second visit to North Korea in May this year, the issue of those abductees whose whereabouts are still unknown and the nuclear and missile issues still remain. In cooperation with other countries concerned, we will continue our efforts to comprehensively resolve these issues, based on the Pyongyang Declaration, and to normalize Japan-North Korea relations.
In Iraq, the people of Iraq themselves are making their own efforts towards the reconstruction of their country, and the international community is working together in providing assistance based on United Nations resolutions. The activities of the Self-Defense Forces, which are engaged in reconstruction assistance activities in Iraq, are being highly appreciated by the people of Iraq as bringing into reality the goodwill of the people of Japan. When I met with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Interim Government of the Republic of Iraq last month, he offered his appreciation for Japan's efforts in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq thus far and indicated his wish for such activities to continue. Starting tomorrow, Japan will host and assume the chair of the Third Donor Committee Meeting and Expanded Meeting of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) in Tokyo.
In relations with Russia, we aim to conclude a peace treaty as soon as possible through the solution of the issue of where the Four Northern Islands belong. We will further consolidate Japan-Russia relations in a broad range of areas, which are becoming ever closer mainly in economic aspects.
Last week I attended the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit held in Hanoi. We will continue to develop our relations and strengthen ties of friendship and trust with Asian countries including China and the Republic of Korea, as well as Europe.
I recently signed the Agreement between Japan and the United Mexican States for Strengthening of the Economic Partnership. We will work to ensure the smooth implementation of the Agreement and further develop the bilateral relations. In addition to actively promoting bilateral economic partnerships, we will make our utmost endeavors towards a conclusion of the negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
We will formulate a new "National Defense Program Outline" and "Mid-Term Defense Program" by the end of this year based on the proposal of the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities in order for Japan to respond to new threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles and terrorism as well as to effectively conduct activities for the peace and stability of the international community.
We will advance the geographical research and survey of seabed resources in waters surrounding Japan and its continental shelf to ensure the protection of marine entitlements.
One school that performed well at this summer's All-Japan Senior High School Baseball Championship Tournament had a line in their school song that went like this, "'If you do it, it will happen', is a magic phrase for us." If you believe in yourself and try hard, a bright future opens out before you. Looking at the excited youth who energetically take part in the championship tournament, after having gone through countless tough training sessions, we can see the truth in these words.
At the Athens Olympic Games and the Paralympics also, many Japanese athletes demonstrated their prowess with astounding results in many events, deeply impressing us all and also giving us courage. These athletes did not rest on their talents, but toiled through harsh training, giving their all, and, withstanding the unimaginable pressure placed upon them, demonstrated ably to us their power and ability.
One athlete smilingly spoke, "Although my medal is made of bronze, not gold, of the experiences I have had in my life, this experience adds up to far more than even a gold medal." Such sentiments were not limited merely to Japanese athletes. The Brazilian athlete Vanderlei de Lima was leading in the marathon for most of the way until he was unexpectedly blocked. Without giving up he finished the race with a smile. This strong resolve to take everything in his stride and his brightness of countenance touched many people.
Currently around the world are many people of Japanese origin, as well as Japanese people working as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) or in Japanese companies overseas. They are all making great efforts in difficult environments in which climate, language and customs may be different from their own, and still they have gained the trust and high regard of local people.
This year, in the regions that suffered grave damage from heavy rains and typhoons, over 100,000 people have offered their services as volunteers with police officers, fire fighters, Self-Defense Force personnel and local people, toiling in the mud to help in rehabilitation work. To see such a spontaneous outpouring of cooperation in times of emergency, including from young people, is truly reassuring for the future of our country.
To continue to make efforts without getting downcast, despite the difficulties you may face. Even if you fail, see failure as one more step along the road to success. If you do it, it will happen. With courage and pride, isn't this the way for us to build a bright future for Japan?
In this, from my heart I ask for the understanding and cooperation of the people of Japan and the distinguished members of the Diet.
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