New Year’s Reflection by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
A Happy New Year to everyone.
One year ago, Japan was facing delayed reconstruction, prolonged deflation and economic stagnation, a series of provocations against our sovereignty, and a crisis in education. I recall that on New Year’s Day, six days after taking office, I was overflowing with enthusiasm and a strong sense of mission, yet filled with nervous tension at the weighty responsibility before me.
Here we are, one year later.
Our achievements include substantially transforming our economic policy, joining the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, reforming reconstruction efforts after the earthquake disaster, working to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Tokyo, and taking the decision to raise the consumption tax. We have also newly created a National Security Council and a National Security Strategy and reviewed the National Defense Program Guidelines. These 365 days of resolute decision-making and action have been a long and arduous path to walk down.
Yet the struggle to restore a strong Japan has just begun. Here as we begin a new year, I have renewed my determination to continue to be highly attentive as we proceed down this long and arduous path.
Even today, the third New Year’s Day since the great earthquake disaster, there are still people taking shelter as evacuees. We will push forward in rebuilding residences so that as many people as possible are able to ring in the next new year in new housing. We will steadily move forward in our measures to address the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company and tackle the issue of contaminated water. I would like for all the people of Fukushima who have been forced to live evacuated from their hometowns as a result of the nuclear accident to return to their regular ways of life at the earliest possible time.
With these thoughts firmly in mind, I will accelerate reconstruction even further.
The Japanese economy has transitioned dramatically from negative to positive growth as a result of “three arrows.” Despite this, we are still only halfway to our goal of breaking free from deflation, which has been engrained into our economy for close to twenty years. I will continue to spare no effort going forward in order to restore a robust economy.
Our aims will be to expand employment for people who work hard and increase their income. I will convey a tangible feeling of economic recovery without fail to every corner of the country, notably to small- and medium-sized enterprises and small-scale employers.
To quote Guan Zhong, who was called an excellent prime minister during China’s Spring and Autumn period,
When planning for one year, there is nothing better than cultivating grain.
When planning for ten years, there is nothing better than cultivating trees.
When planning for a lifetime, there is nothing better than cultivating people.
While our responses to the problems facing us immediately are also important, we cannot forget to carve out the future of Japan ten or one hundred years into the future. In doing so, we must not resort to superficial measures. Instead, it is imperative to engage in true reforms that ascertain the state of society we seek to achieve.
In a world that is deepening its mutual interdependence, inward-focused thinking is no longer able to safeguard the peace of Japan. Japan will play an even more proactive role than ever before for world peace and stability. I am fully confident that this "proactive contribution to peace" is the banner Japan should raise in the 21st century.
We will fully defend the lives and assets of our nationals as well as our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace in a resolute manner. We will prepare the foundation that will make this possible.
Fostering human resources is the best way to “plan for a lifetime.” We will cultivate human resources that have both high levels of academic achievement and abundant compassion as human beings, who take pride in having been born in Japan. We will steadily implement reforms in education to bring this about.
Moreover, with regard to the Constitution, which expresses the “form of the nation,” it is soon going to be 68 years since its enactment. I believe that now we should deepen our national discussions further, with a view to introducing amendments that incorporate various changes in the times.
Looking back to New Year’s Day, 1951—the 26th year of Showa in the Japanese calendar—we find Japan still under occupation. Our course forward as “post-war Japan” started from the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, both signed that year.
Now it is New Year’s Day, 2013—the 26th year of Heisei. This is a time at which we in the modern world should again take a great step forward towards building a “new Japan.”
Moving forward on the most significant reforms in the post-war era will surely not be an easy task. We are already well aware of the challenges involved.
However, what we have now is hope for the future. This is because politics changed dramatically through the power of the Japanese people in the recent general election and in last year’s House of Councillors election. The economy has also changed. And moreover, society is also now changing.
That power is found in the people. I am able to overcome any kind of challenge so long as I am working together with the people. We can restore “a Japan we can be proud of.” I feel that way once again here at the start of a new year.
In closing, I would like to ask for the public’s further understanding and support, and I extend my sincere wishes that this year is a rewarding and wonderful year for each and every one of you.
Prime Minister of Japan
January 1, 2014