Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 183rd Session of the Diet
Monday, January 28, 2013
I would like to begin my address with a few words concerning the terrorist incident that took place in Algeria.
Since the incident occurred, the government was engaged in fully concerted efforts to collect information on and rescue the lives of the hostages.
And yet, it is a matter of deepest regret that Japanese actively working on the front lines around the world, entirely innocent, have become victims. I am overwhelmed by anguish and heartache when I think of the feelings of the families left behind.
Despicable terrorist acts that involve innocent citizens are absolutely unforgivable and Japan resolutely condemns them. We will verify the facts concerning this incident and fully defend the lives and the assets of our nationals. As I begin my address to you today I state my determination that Japan will continue to fight terrorism in ongoing coordination with the international community.
Through the judgment of the people handed down in the general election at the end of last year, a coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party was inaugurated, and I was designated as the nation's 96th Prime Minister.
I am someone who has suffered a major political setback, as I have once resigned from this position due to illness. Having once again accepted the heavy responsibility of presiding over the steering of the nation, I vow to manage national policy in a sincere manner, taking to heart reflections and lessons from the past while keeping in mind the importance of careful dialogue.
The source of my determination to devote myself once more to working for the nation and the people lies in my deep sense of patriotism. This is because I believe that I have a mission which must be undertaken in order to rectify Japan's present situation of finding itself in a critical situation.
There is the crisis of the Japanese economy, in which we have been unable to extract ourselves from the bog of deflation and a strengthening yen, while the enormous sum of what is said to be up to 50 trillion yen in national income has been lost along with industrial competitiveness, and no matter how diligently one works, one's day-to-day living never improves.
There is the crisis of reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, in which progress has been sluggish while nearly 320,000 people remain unable to return to their beloved hometowns.
There is the crisis of our diplomacy and security, in which the cornerstone of our foreign policy has become eroded and, as if the fragility of our position has been perceived by others, there have been ongoing provocations against our sovereign territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace as well as against our sovereignty itself.
And, there is the crisis of education, in which insidious bullying occurs in one case after another among the children who will shoulder the future of Japan, while pride in this nation's history and traditions wanes and there are concerns regarding declining academic achievement, which should rank among the world's best.
It simply will not do for us to stand idly by.
Honorable members of the Diet, shall we not now build a decent society where people who work hard are certain to be rewarded and where it is possible to embrace dreams and hopes for the future?
If we are to do so, we must do whatever it takes to break through the array of crises threatening Japan's future.
In the just over three years spent as an opposition party, the LDP painstakingly went all around the country to gather the views of people there in each locale and emerged with a vision of how our policies should be. Now that we have achieved this return to being a ruling party, we will realize in concrete form the policies that we have been nurturing over this time and, together with the people, push forward to break through the crises here at hand.
Upon inaugurating my Cabinet, I simultaneously instructed all of the ministers to devote themselves to the areas of economic revival, reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, and crisis management. Breaking through these crises is a job that should be undertaken by the entire Cabinet moving forward as one.
At the same time, it is also a responsibility to be shouldered by all members of the Diet engaged in national administration, from both ruling and opposition parties alike.
I appeal to all the honorable members of the Diet gathered in this chamber. Let us mobilize the wisdom of the ruling and opposition parties and demonstrate Japan's strength to the greatest possible extent in order to indicate the steadfast intention of the nation, which is about to break through these crises. I earnestly seek the understanding and cooperation of each party and parliamentary group on this matter.
The greatest issue and indeed an urgent issue for Japan is the revival of the economy.
Of the numerous issues Japan faces, why do I insist on reviving the economy most of all? It is because I consider prolonged deflation and the appreciation of the yen to be shaking from their very base the foundations of trust in society that "those who work hard shall be rewarded."
No matter how much the government redistributes income, unless it succeeds in creating wealth through continuous economic growth, the size of the overall economic "pie" will continue to shrink. Should that occur, then however hard a person may work, the amount of income that remains in hand for that individual would only decrease. It could also cause the foundations of social security, which serves as an anchor for our peace of mind, to become shaky.
It will be impossible for us to break free of deflation and the appreciating yen by dealing with them in ways that are an extension of what we have done thus far. That is why I will set forth a bold policy package of a nature altogether different from what has come before. Let us move forward in restoring a "robust economy" with a firm sense of resolve.
I have already established the Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization as a "control tower" for economic revival and reinstated the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. Making this lineup function in high gear, I will press forward with economic revival under the three prongs of bold monetary policy, flexible fiscal policy, and a growth strategy that encourages private sector investment.
In the area of monetary policy, the government and the Bank of Japan put together a joint statement that daringly overhauls the policy framework that has existed until now. It is important that the government and the Bank of Japan each faithfully carry out the contents of the joint statement within its respective area of responsibility, including the Bank of Japan bringing a 2 percent price stability target into reality in the earliest possible time. The government and the Bank of Japan will engage in even closer cooperation in the future.
In addition, the recently compiled Emergency Economic Measures provide support for business activity while reinforcing our growth potential. The supplementary budget that we will submit in the days ahead provides the backing for those countermeasures. It sets forth bold budgetary provisions, with the three priority areas of "reconstruction and disaster prevention", "the creation of wealth through growth", and "securing safety of people's livelihood and regional revitalization." I ask in particular for the understanding and the cooperation of each party and parliamentary group so that this budget can be passed promptly and transition into implementation.
At the same time, it will be impossible to mobilize fiscal spending indefinitely. We will formulate and then implement a growth strategy in which private-sector investment and consumption expand continuously.
iPS cells, one of the momentous inventions of the century, are now approaching a stage at which clinical tests to develop new drugs and cures are firmly within reach. When put into practical use, this research will not only contribute to the realization of a "society in which people can live long lives in good health" but also create new wealth and employment. Innovation and system reform will lead to the resolution of social issues, thereby bringing about new values in our daily lives and becoming a driving factor for economic revival.
The most important thing will be a spirit of courageously taking up the challenge to explore unknown fields. My fellow members of the Diet, let us now more than ever aim to be the best in the world.
We aim to be a society that attracts investment and human resources from all around the globe, in which all people, both young and old, and regardless of age or disability, feel a purpose in life, and in which people are given chances again and again. We aim at a society in which working women can forge their own careers, and one in which both men and women find it easy to reconcile jobs and child-rearing. We aim to have a society in which small- and medium-sized enterprises and small-scale employers are dynamic, and a society overflowing with attractiveness particular to each region, in which the abundant resources of our agricultural, mountain, and fishing communities nourish growth. By linking such a vision of "the society we seek to achieve" with a reliable strategy for growth, we will certainly restore a robust economy in the future.
At the same time, we will aim to achieve a surplus in the primary balance in order to put public finances on a sound footing over the medium to long term.
(Reconstruction from the Earthquake Disaster)
The areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake are now in the midst of their second harsh winter. When selecting the very first place I would visit immediately after assuming the post of prime minister at the end of last year, I chose Fukushima without any hesitation whatsoever. I also visited Miyagi the other day and from here on as well, I intend to visit these affected places as often as I can.
When thinking of the affected areas, I cannot help calling to mind the story of one little girl and her family. This little girl, then in her third year of elementary school, lost her great-grandmother and her mother in the Great East Japan Earthquake. One day two months after the disaster struck, a letter was delivered to the family, which was overwhelmed with grief. It was a "letter to the future" that two years before, the girl's mother had written to her daughter secretly, after the little girl had entered elementary school.
After referring to the struggles they had had when the girl first entered school, the letter continued, saying, "Mommy is so relieved to see that you are doing so well going to school. From now on Mommy is going to try her best and she is looking forward to seeing you read this letter with everyone."
The person who received this letter was a little girl whom I had happened to meet before in the disaster area and whom I was able to meet again recently. When I spoke with her, she looked intently into my eyes and said, "I want you to build an elementary school." I was deeply touched by the fact that she had conveyed her hopes for the future rather than looking back on the past.
The reconstruction of hometowns is an undertaking that will restore the hope to live among the people in the disaster areas. Restoring the smiling faces of the people who are industriously living in the present may also very well be a way to repay the departed souls of the victims watching over us from heaven, who are wishing only for those smiling faces.
But nothing will change just by appealing for reconstruction verbally. First of all, we will undertake a major conversion of the government system. We will engage in a hands-on approach under which we will push aside the vertically-segmented administrative structure that has been in place until now and have the Reconstruction Agency take up all requests as a "one stop" focal point. We will intrepidly set forth budgetary provisions within the upcoming supplementary budget as well, and we will without fail accelerate the reconstruction of the disaster areas and the revival of Fukushima.
(Diplomacy and Security)
There is also a pressing need for us to undertake a drastic reshaping in the areas of diplomacy and security.
Above all, we must further reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and security, and fully restore the bonds of friendship between Japan and the U.S. At the Japan-U.S. summit meeting scheduled for the third week of February, I am determined to demonstrate to both the people of Japan and people around the world that the close ties of the Japan-U.S. alliance have been restored. At the same time, I will be devoting my greatest possible efforts to lightening Okinawa's burden, including through the relocation of Futenma Air Station.
Fundamental to our diplomacy will be for us to develop a strategic diplomacy based on the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, and we view the world as a whole, as if looking at a globe, rather than look only at bilateral relations with neighboring countries.
In the Asia-Pacific region which will grow dramatically, Japan will continue to make contributions as a leading role in not only economics but also a variety of other fields, including security as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
This year marks the 40th year of friendship and cooperation between Japan and ASEAN. Recently I visited the three countries of Viet Nam, Thailand, and Indonesia, where I was once again able to feel very acutely the high degree of expectations that these countries hold for Japan. Strengthening Japan's relations with the countries of ASEAN, which will continue to develop as a growth center as it works towards the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015, will be indispensable for the peace and prosperity of the region while also being in Japan's national interests. Having started with this recent trip, I will continue to develop strategic diplomacy that looks at the global situation from a broad perspective.
The situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. I hereby declare that I will take all possible measures to ensure the appropriate development and administration of our remote border islands and the reinforcement of their security, and that under this Cabinet, we will fully defend in a resolute manner the lives and assets of our nationals as well as our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace.
Furthermore, the recent terrorist incident in Algeria has sounded a warning to us once more regarding the importance of crisis management as a nation. We will handle such matters with even greater vigilance under a 24-hour, 365-day system for crisis management responses, including terrorist or cyber attacks as well as large-scale natural disasters and major accidents.
And then, above all else is the resolution of the abduction issue. My mission will not be finished until the day arrives that the families of all the abductees are able to hold their relatives in their arms. Under a policy of "dialogue and pressure" with North Korea, I will do my utmost to achieve the three points of ensuring the safety and the immediate return to Japan of all the abductees, obtaining a full accounting concerning the abductions, and realizing the handover of the perpetrators of the abductions.
The greatest crisis facing Japan lies in the Japanese people having lost confidence. It is certainly true that the Japanese economy is in a serious state and that these are not simple issues that can be solved today or tomorrow.
However, should we lose the mettle to say, "I will grow going forward, making use of my own abilities," neither individuals nor countries will be able to carve out a bright future. Former Prime Minister Hitoshi Ashida said the following amidst the burnt-out ruins after the war, urging on young people who were brooding over how the future would turn out. "Don't go asking others 'How will it all turn out'; instead remember that 'There is no path forward other than by carving out our own fate with our own hands.'"
I would also like to appeal to each of the Japanese people listening to this address. The most important thing is to restore pride and confidence in yourself, is it not? We, and indeed Japan as well, can surely grow every day in the future by uncovering new capabilities lying dormant within us. Let us share a readiness to break through the crises confronting us here and now and carve out our future.
There is no one else who will create a "strong Japan." It is none other than we ourselves who will do it.
Thank you for listening.