Policy Speech by Prime Minister to the 187th Session of the Diet
Monday, September 29, 2014
1. Creating a country that is resilient against disasters
The recent “Torrential Rains of August 2014” caused enormous damage in areas all around the country, including notably the large-scale landslide damage in Hiroshima.
I offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of the souls of those who lost their precious lives. I would also like to express my sincere sympathy to those who suffered injuries or damages. We will out forth all possible efforts towards helping people to rebuild their lives at the earliest possible time.
We will conduct thorough examinations of hazardous locations nationwide that have not yet been designated as landslide danger zones and also press forward in reviewing our systems so that it is possible to designate landslide danger zones and provide information to the public through a more fully reliable system.
In this year’s heavy snow disaster, rescue activities were hindered because of unattended vehicles and other articles. We will revise the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act so that such vehicles can be moved in times of disaster. I will push ahead further in making the nation's infrastructure more resilient not only through maintaining infrastructure but also through preparing evacuation plans and making them well-known to the public, conducting drills, and so on.
In responding to disasters, there are neither “ruling parties” nor “opposition parties.” In order to safeguard the daily lives of the people, let us together press forward in building a nation that is resilient against disasters.
2. Accelerating reconstruction
Fukushima is now entering the harvest season of autumn. In the town of Hirono that I visited the other day, golden ears of rice glistened in the rice fields that have been reconstructed.
On the first of October, we will lift the evacuation order for the village of Kawauchi, following the lifting of the order in the city of Tamura. We will resolve people’s anxieties about their health, jobs, and other matters one by one, so that those returning to their hometown are able to recover their daily lives in which they can live with peace of mind.
We have also succeeded in taking a major step forward in the construction of interim storage facilities with the understanding of the people of Fukushima. Using this opportunity, we will further accelerate decontamination and achieve the revival of Fukushima at the earliest possible time.
Work has already begun on more than 80 per cent of the projects for transferring housing to areas of high elevation and constructing public housing for disaster victims in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
We will place heavy emphasis on the recovery of the hearts of the disaster victims. We will undertake well-tailored, carefully-designed measures while considering the sensitivities of the people in the disaster areas. These include having health outreach workers visit temporary housing facilities on a rotating basis and creating places where children can play with peace of mind.
Mr. Toshiro Abe, whom I met in the city of Higashimatsushima in Miyagi Prefecture in July, is working together with other residents of the community to advance agriculture that is well grounded in the local area. We will increase the incomes of farmers and create vitality in the local areas through farmland consolidation, diversification, and transitions to "senary," or sixth-order, industry. Here we see how the “aggressive agriculture” we are aiming at can take shape. Cutting-edge agriculture is poised to blossom from land that was utterly devastated in the earthquake.
We will continue to provide vigorous support for the recovery of occupations and livelihoods that sustain people’s daily lives.
I would like by all means to make the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games “the Reconstruction Olympics and Paralympics.” We must make these Games a major trigger for Japan to be born anew. We will move into full-scale preparations for holding the Games. Six years from now, against a backdrop of splendidly reconstructed streetscapes of Tohoku, let us send out to the world the sight of Olympic torchbearers running from the Sanriku coast down alongside Sendai Bay to the coastal part of Fukushima.
3. Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan
(Making Japan a tourism-oriented country)
Researcher of Eastern culture Mr. Alex Kerr called Japan’s landscapes in their original state spreading out across the Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture “a different world, like the Peach Blossom Spring [in Chinese legend].” Tokushima Prefecture, which boasts the Naruto whirlpools and other beautiful scenery, saw the number of non-Japanese overnight guests rise by 40 per cent in the first half of 2014 compared to last year.
The number of non-Japanese tourists surpassed six million in six months, which is the best pace ever. In April this year, the travel balance recorded a surplus for the first time in 44 years, since the Osaka World Expo.
Aiming still higher, we will strategically undertake such actions as relaxing visa requirement and expanding the number of tax-free shops for tourists. We will utilize the system of National Strategic Special Zones to ease restrictions so that local authorities can cultivate through their own efforts human resources that are capable of guiding visitors around places of scenic beauty and historical interest with good command of foreign languages.
In fiscal 2013, the number of non-Japanese tourists visiting Okinawa reached the highest level in history. We will make our utmost efforts for the promotion of Okinawa, which is a bridge in Asia, and develop Okinawa’s power further.
We will provide support so that each local region in Japan is able to make use of its own distinctive tourism resources, including abundant natural beauty as well as cultural and historical aspects.
(Harnessing individual characteristics)
A locally brewed beer that uses the bountiful waters of Mt. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture has had more and more repeat customers nationwide and sales are growing.
“The ‘hometown tax’ changed our future in a good way.”
Well-known specialty products that are the pride of an area are given as gifts to people who remit “hometown taxes” to those local areas. Efforts that use the ingenuity of the local authorities have become a major trigger for getting people all around the nation to know their
“hometown specialty goods.”
We will strengthen further assistance for boosting “hometown specialty goods” to become popular items at the national level. We will provide support for commercializing new “hometown specialty goods” that make use of resources specific to local areas and for efforts to cultivate markets.
On one of the Oki Islands lies the town of Ama in Shimane Prefecture, where the words, “Nai mono wa nai,” or, “If we don’t have it, then we don’t have it,” have been made into a town logo. The message is that Ama does not have the convenience that a city offers, but all the things that are important for its future are already there. It has been highly successful by making use of things that are “only found here on this island.”
Not imitating big cities, but rather making the greatest possible use of its own individual characteristics. A change in mindset is necessary. If each individual town were to have the mettle to say, “our true self can only be found here,” the landscape would most certainly change dramatically.
(A Diet for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan)
It was young people who came to the island and transformed its curry made with horned turban shells (known in Japanese as “sazae”) into a product that sells as many as 20 thousand meals annually. Young people’s ideas have led to one hit product after another, and this island, with a population of roughly 2,400 people, has seen more than 400 young people not originally from the island settle there over the last decade.
You can do it if you try.
Local regions face profound structural issues such as declining populations and super-aging communities. And yet, young people, embracing dreams and hopes for the future, wish to take on challenges in such locales. I firmly believe that it is such young people who will be key, putting a brake on such crises.
We will work to advance community building, fostering human resources, and job creation in ways that appeal to young people. I have established the Headquarters for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan. The government will compile bold policies of a nature altogether different from what has come before and implement them.
We will prepare an environment in which it is easy for young people to take on challenges. We will eliminate the practice of placing undue emphasis on “personal guarantees,” under which, should you fail once, you lose everything. The Japan Finance Corporation and the Shoko Chukin Bank alone have extended financing without personal guarantees in more than 20 thousand cases over the past six months. Moreover, in government procurement, we will newly create a framework for giving precedence to companies that have been in business for less than ten years, and the government will make concerted efforts to support the development of markets for those who are attempting new business undertakings.
It is the residents of mountainous areas, remote islands, and other local areas that conserve our traditional hometowns and maintain a beautiful Japan. We must not allow such hometowns to disappear. There is now no time to lose.
What this Diet is called on to do is to make a powerful start towards building up local regions in which young people can have dreams and hopes for the future. Let us all work together towards this.
4. Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map
Saury is now in its peak season. In Viet Nam, saury simmered with tomatoes is an extremely popular dish. This saury is being exported from the Hokkaido city of Nemuro.
The marketing efforts undertaken by the local fishing cooperative and the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry working in unison has developed “Nemuro saury” into a global brand. It has transitioned from “the Hokkaido city of Nemuro” to “the Japanese city of Nemuro,” and then to “the globally-known city of Nemuro.” This is an era in which local areas should direct their attention towards an open world.
We will create free and large economic zones at the global level. We will continue to press forward with economic partnerships strategically, including negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU and East Asia. We will bring about the early entry into force of our EPA with Australia, deepening our economic bonds still further.
“I support Japan’s efforts to contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world.” With these words, I succeeded in obtaining strong support regarding Japan’s flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” from Prime Minister Modi of India, who came to Japan as the first major country he visited after taking office.
Japan will make even greater contributions than ever to world peace and stability, working hand-in-hand with the United States and other countries with which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
On that basis, we will resolutely secure the lives and the peaceful daily lives of the people under any circumstances. Grounded in that determination, we will move forward in our preparations to develop seamless security legislation.
Regarding the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, in line with the current Japan-U.S. agreement, we will make our utmost efforts to alleviate the military base burden while maintaining deterrence.
In the past, the people of Okinawa were at the mercy of politics that was no more than unsubstantiated words. The reality of Futenma Air Station, which is surrounded by schools and residences and lies right in the heart of a built-up area, did not shift even a single millimeter during those three years and three months. Such irresponsible politics must not be repeated.
The Abe Cabinet will be engaged in reducing the burden [of the military bases] not through words but through bona fide actions. Last month we completed relocating to Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture all 15 of the KC-130 aircraft for aerial refueling that had been deployed to Futenma Air Station. We will continue to make the fullest possible efforts outside of Okinawa, while staying faithful to the feelings of the people of Okinawa.
Since taking office as Prime Minister, I have visited 49 countries and held over 200 summit meetings in total. I will develop my “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map” even more actively, sending out to the international community the message of Japan’s position.
I will make step-by-step efforts over time to improve our relations with the Republic of Korea, our most important neighboring country with which we share fundamental values and interests.
As for Japan and China, we share an inseparable relationship, and the peaceful development of China is a great opportunity for Japan. In order for Japan and China, which bear great responsibility for the peace and prosperity of the region, to build stable friendly relations going forward, I intend to realize a summit meeting at an early time and further develop a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" through dialogue.
In order to ensure stability in Ukraine, Japan will provide assistance to the extent possible, acting in unity with the other members of the G7 and the rest of the international community. We will use dialogue to urge Russia, as a responsible nation, to engage constructively in [the resolution of] various issues within the international community. We will tenaciously continue negotiations with Russia towards the conclusion of a peace treaty.
North Korea has begun comprehensive and full-scale investigations on all Japanese nationals, including the victims of abduction. Our mission will not be complete until the day comes that the families of all the abductees are able to embrace their loved ones in their own arms. Upholding the principles of "dialogue and pressure" and “action for action,” Japan will make its utmost efforts so that these investigations lead to the concrete result of all abductees returning to Japan.
5. Implementing the Growth Strategy
(A society in which women shine)
Last week in New York, I met former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once again.
That is how last year Hillary enthusiastically cheered on the Abe Cabinet’s endeavors to create a society in which women shine.
We will change the world, starting from Japan. This month, we held Japan’s first ever international conference on the topic of women. Women dynamically engaged in society gathered from all around the world. Will Japanese society really change? The world is now paying close attention to this.
There is no doubt that we are making progress in the elimination of childcare waiting lists. In the two years since this goal was put forth, we have been preparing childcare arrangements at double the previous speed. We are making greater use of elementary school classrooms to further accelerate the After School Hours Plan for Children, thereby also breaking through what is known as the "first grade wall,” [whereby mothers often quit their jobs when their children enter elementary school].
Child-rearing is also one kind of career. We will introduce a new professional qualification of “childcare supporter” for people engaged in childcare services. In so doing, we will move forward in creating a society in which people who have focused on their families can also utilize those experiences.
What is truly in need of reform is the very consciousness that society holds. We will require listed companies to publicly disclose information on their number of female board members. Through the country, the local regions, companies, and other social actors working in unison, we will seek to create a society in which it is easy for women to be dynamically engaged.
At the small- and medium-sized enterprises in Osaka that I visited the other day, the well-tailored business operations that are highly characteristic of a female approach are increasing the scope of the companies’ opportunities to expand overseas. The active participation of women is a major driving force that clears away the feeling in society of being caught in an impasse. We will have people share that recognition, and we will develop a popular movement.
(Reform of regulations that have become hard like bedrock)
We will move forward in restarting nuclear power plants for which we have confirmed the level of safety required by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, valuing the NRA’s scientific and technical judgements. We will give thorough explanations, provide support to enhance evacuation planning, and conduct other such efforts in order to obtain the understanding of the host governments and other relevant parties. By introducing to the greatest possible extent thoroughgoing energy conservation as well as renewable energies, we will reduce our degree of dependence on nuclear power to the greatest possible extent.
Looking to an energy of the future that does not emit carbon dioxide, last year, all at once we reformed the regulations extending across various ministries that rigidly bound and hindered the use of hydrogen.
“This is thanks to deregulation.”
Hydrogen stations have finally been commercialized, and in Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture and various other locations nationwide, the curtains are actually about to be lifted on the hydrogen society, which used to be a dream. Japan’s auto manufacturers have launched sales of fuel cell automobiles ahead of the rest of the world.
New businesses with extraordinary diversity emerge from the dynamic innovation of the private sector. Without bold regulatory reform, the Growth Strategy will not succeed. We will continue to resolutely challenge to break through regulations that have become hard like bedrock, in agriculture, employment, medicine, energy, and other areas.
What will open the door to this are our National Strategic Special Zones. Although these Zones have only gotten off to their fully-fledged start this month, we will enhance the menu of reforms still further. We will prepare an environment in which non-Japanese brimming with ability who will launch companies or assist people in their homes can be active in Japan. We will open up the management of public schools to the private sector, thereby enabling public education that accommodates diverse values, including the cultivation of globally-minded human resources and education that is appropriate for individual needs.
The regulatory reforms of the Abe Cabinet will never end.
Over the next two years, I will break through every type of regulation that is hard like bedrock. Having renewed that determination, in the next Diet session, and indeed the Diet session after that, in the future each time the Diet is convened, I intend to propose further expansions to the Special Zone system in rapid succession.
(Making the turnaround felt throughout the whole of the country)
With more than 600 days passing since the inauguration of my Cabinet, the ratio of job offers to job seekers reached a high level not seen in 22 years, and, looking at the breakdown by geographical area, the number of available jobs exceeded the number of job seekers in 35 prefectures.
This spring, wages rose at a large number of companies. A survey by RENGO, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, indicates that this rise in wages by an average of more than 2 per cent was the highest level in the past 15 years. According to a survey of over ten thousand companies, 65 per cent of small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro enterprises have implemented wage increases as well.
Japan is now working to restore confidence in the idea that those who work hard will be rewarded.
However, we cannot yet say that such effects have spread to every corner of the nation. It is necessary to pay careful attention also to impacts on the economy from such factors as the rise in the consumption tax rate, sharp rises in the price of fuel, and irregular weather this summer.
Our reforms are still only halfway complete. Through the collective efforts of my new Cabinet, we will further advance reforms in various areas, including the reform of social security, the revival of education, and thoroughly increasing the efficiency of the government.
We will implement the Growth Strategy without fail and ensure an economic virtuous cycle as we achieve economic revival and fiscal reconstruction in a compatible way. Making the turnaround of the economy felt tangibly throughout the whole of the country is a major mission of the Abe Cabinet.
I continue to be determined to strive to overcome deflation and to run the administration under a policy of making the economy the utmost priority.
It is said that Furuhashi Genrokuro Terunori, an agricultural leader of the Meiji Era who was born in the village of Inahashi in Mikawa Province, grieved his circumstances of having been born into a poor village, saying, “God, why did you have me born into a valley shaped like a mortar?” However, on one occasion, he arrived at one firm conviction as he looked out over the surrounding mountains and plains from atop a mountain peak.
“God has given fish and salt to the riverside and lakeside regions, grain and vegetables to the plains, and bountiful trees to the mountain villages. He has given each its own.”
With that conviction, he newly built up industries suited to the land, including forestry, sericulture, and tea cultivation, and succeeded in developing the village of Inahashi into a prosperous one.
We now find pessimistic views such as “Japan can no longer grow,” or “the decline in Japan’s population is unavoidable.”
However, we will make use of the rich individual characteristics of our regions. We will prepare a stage on which all kinds of women can be dynamically engaged. And we can still grow by bringing into bloom the full spectrum of potential lying dormant in Japan. The future of Japan depends on what we do now.
Let us not pessimistically come to a halt, but rather move forward, believing in our potential.
Rather than stand paralyzed before the severe reality, let us together stand up to it, aiming to reach a bright future.
Thank you very much for listening.