Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 168th Session of the Diet
September 10, 2007
At the opening of the 168th session of the Diet, I would like to pray for the souls of all the people who have passed away and express my heartfelt sympathy to all the people who suffered damage due to the disasters caused by the earthquake off the coast of central Niigata prefecture and recent typhoons. I will do my utmost for the recovery and reconstruction, putting removal of the anxieties of the affected people as the first and foremost goal.
The results of the recent ordinary elections for the House of Councillors turned out to be extremely severe for the ruling parties. I am resolved to continue to take the helm of the government, based on a deep remorse for not having been able to fully respond to the thoughts and indignations of the people which were expressed in the elections, and for having invited distrust toward the politics and the administration.
I am well aware of the opinion that I should step down because the people have expressed such a harsh judgment.
However, our country is facing great changes of the times, such as decreasing population, intensifying competition on global scale, deteriorating education in schools and families, and changes in the national security environment surrounding Japan. In order to obtain a high quality of life and a bright future, not only do we need to advance structural reforms in economic, administrative, and fiscal areas, but also it is absolutely crucial to mark a departure from the post-war regimes, that is to say, to advance the reform of conducting bold reviews going all the way back to the origins of various systems which have been in place for so long after the war, including the rebuilding of education and the restructuring of the national security system. "We must not stop this reform -- for the future of our country and for our children." It was out of this sole determination that I decided to stay on. I would like to fulfill my responsibilities to the people by further advancing reforms with renewed determination, with the remorse based on the harsh election results and the resolve to fight for the people.
Since taking office in September last year, the Abe Administration has been advancing the construction of the frameworks for a new vision of the country befitting the new age, such as the revision of the Basic Education Law and the enactment of the Public Service System Reform Law. At the same time, we have been advancing the New Growth Strategy to transform our economy into a robust one which can withstand the declining birth rate and aging population as well as internationalization. The economy has been put on a stable path of recovery, and employment has been expanding, thus producing concrete results. We must not change the fundamental course of reform. We must never allow ourselves to go back to the former political methods of pork barreling and the "convoy system."
However, reforms are inevitably accompanied by pain. We have been endeavoring to take necessary measures to cope with this, but it has not been quite sufficient. From now on, while advancing reforms, we will do our utmost to implement policies which are compassionate and warm, and which squarely shed light on the downsides of reforms.
I have recently reshuffled the Cabinet to restart the creation of a new country. To my deep regret, one of the ministers resigned due to the problem of improper receipt of subsidies. The Cabinet will make sure that subsidies, etc., will be provided with full accountability, so that something like this will never happen again in the future.
Under the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party, we will rally together as the "Policy Implementation Cabinet," and steadily advance policies with solid foundations on the ground. We will articulate our policies with confidence, and deepen constructive debates with the opposition parties, and do our best in sincerely coming up with answers to each and every question, so that the people can live without anxiety into the future.
At the start of this Cabinet, I will attach the foremost importance to engaging in dialogue with the people. Starting with myself, cabinet ministers, senior vice ministers, and parliamentary vice ministers -- a total of 70 top government officials -- will divide up and each visit various local communities throughout the country, and listen to the voices on the ground face to face with the elderly people, young people, and people working for small and medium enterprises, and reflect their views in policies which are attentive to various circumstances.
To restore the public's trust in the pension system is an important mission that has been tasked to me. We will take all possible measures to correctly provide pension payments to the people who paid pension premiums sincerely. We will go after the causes and responsibilities rigorously. I will see to it that, by carrying out these two tasks completely, we will get to the bottom of the pension record problem, and resolve it without fail.
It is essential to have a long-term system design to make the public pension a foundation of national daily life, a trustworthy system without anxiety for the people. This is the responsibility of politics. It is extremely important that discussions will be resumed in the Diet that transcend the positions of the ruling and opposition parties, and transparent and constructive consultations will be conducted.
I will make every effort to sincerely respond to the earnest voices of the people in the regions raising concerns over disparities and their future prospects, and make the dividends of reforms to be felt by the regions.
We will develop a system that enables regions to explore ideas on their own and implement them. We will strive for local tax and financial reforms, including further transfer of power to local governments and correction of tax revenue disparities among regions. Moreover, we will accelerate our deliberations toward realizing the system of a broader regional government (doshu-sei), the final completion of the decentralization of power from the central government to local governments.
We will integrate the implementation systems established under the Cabinet, including the one for regional revitalization. We will also provide assistance to regions willing to work on revitalization, in a concentrated and effective manner that adapts to the actual situations prevailing in the respective regions, by fully mobilizing measures such as the Program for Helping Striving Regions to Help Themselves and revitalization of central urban areas and public transportation, and by removing the bureaucratic sectionalism.
We will support improving vocational skills, and raise the minimum wage, in order to shore up the living standards of people working in the regions. At the same time, we will work to support the revitalization of the regions as a whole, by improving the productivities of small and medium enterprises which prop up the regional economy, and newly establishing a Regional Vitality Restoration Organization.
It is extremely important for the future of our country that Japan's agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, which produce safe and secure food products, continue to maintain their vitality. We will focus our efforts on policies that build for the future, including assistance to hard-working people based on the "agricultural policies on the offensive." Firmly acknowledging the anxieties held by senior and small-scale farming households, we will provide attentive assistance to them.
All the children can seize the opportunities they have for tomorrow only when there is a high quality of public education with little financial burden. With the enactment of the revised Fundamental Law of Education and the three laws for rebuilding education, we will now move ahead with concrete steps to implement reforms that will enable our children to acquire a high academic ability and sense of discipline.
Careful attention will be paid to shoring up academic abilities by increasing classroom hours, enhancing textbooks and effectively utilizing the nationwide academic test. Efforts will also be focused on trial experiences and on moral education. In order to secure good teachers, we will establish a well-modulated salary structure for teachers and strive to smoothly implement a renewal system for teaching licenses. Through measures such as reducing their administrative burdens, we will increase the amount of time that teachers engage fully in face-to-face interaction with students. A system will be established under which experts also participate in responding to the concerns and opinions of guardians.
A society in which people can live with a sense of security is the foundation on which a nation is built. We will constantly pay attention and promptly respond to the concerns that people feel in their daily lives.
The people's confidence in the food we eat has been shaken. We will thoroughly enforce correct food labeling and strengthen our monitoring system for imported food products at entry points.
We will establish a system of emergency hub hospitals and networks responsible for emergency medical care in each of the regions, so that necessary emergency medical services can be received even during the night. We will make full efforts with a view to resolving the shortage of doctors in local regions through measures such as promptly dispatching "doctors without prefectural borders," and establishing a framework for working in remote areas at the medical departments of universities in local regions.
We will advance efforts to make Japan the most disaster-resistant nation in the world. We will work to make schools and other public facilities as well as houses more resistant to earthquakes, and create systems that can respond without fail if the need arises -- systems to provide information to the elderly, confirm people's safety and conduct rescue operations. Every effort will be made to ensure that nuclear power plants respond properly when earthquakes occur, while at the same time ensuring full disclosure of information in order to reassure the residents in the surrounding areas.
In order to create an environment where people can have children and raise them with a sense of security, we will expand diverse and attentive day care services and advance a review of the ways in which people work so that they can strike a balance between work and family life.
Economic growth is essential in order to maintain our pension and nursing systems and to create employment even under the severe situation of a rapid decrease in the birthrate, an aging society, and an unprecedented population decline. We will realize sustainable growth, making the utmost use of the strengths Japan has thus far developed, such as science and technology. By supporting new innovations that open up the next era, as well as by making the economy more open to the outside world through promoting the liberalization of Japan's aviation industry, as well as in tourism, finance and other sectors, we will bring into Japan the growth and vitality of countries in Asia and elsewhere in the world.
We will resolutely carry out administrative and financial reforms aimed at "zero waste." We will formulate a well-modulated budget, and firmly proceed on the path of integrated reform of expenditures and revenues, toward the goal of achieving a surplus in the primary balance of the central and local governments combined in FY 2011.
In order to regain the trust of the people in the administration, we will thoroughly eradicate the bad disposition of civil servants that have come to light, and create a new mold of civil servants who will shoulder the administration of the country in the 21st century.
Even after thoroughly implementing expenditure reforms and administrative reforms, for any possible increases in burden caused by social security services and the declining birthrate, we must secure a stable supply of revenue source, and avoid any shift of the burden onto the shoulders of future generations. We will start full-fledged discussions from autumn this year, and endeavor to realize fundamental reform of the taxation system, including the consumption tax.
(Carrying Forward Proactive Diplomacy)
I will continue to carry forward "Proactive Diplomacy."
There will be no security and prosperity for Japan without peace and stability of the world. We must not forget that as many as 24 precious Japanese lives were taken away in the September 11th terrorist attacks in the U.S. The fight against terrorism is ongoing. The Maritime Self-Defense Force's operations based on the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law provide an indispensable foundation for maritime interdiction operations jointly undertaken by many countries, and they are highly appreciated by the international community. Members of the Self-Defense Force diligently attending to their duties in the red-hot Indian Ocean -- this is the very form of international contribution the world expects of Japan. Would it really be appropriate to pull back now and abandon our responsibilities to the international community? I urge you to render your understanding, so that the operations can continue.
I do not believe anyone has forgotten the shocks of the North Korean missile launches and its announcement of a nuclear test. The security environment surrounding Japan continues to be harsh. Japan's national security system needs to be restructured, by strengthening the headquarters functions of the Prime Minister's Office and the intelligence capabilities of the Government. We will steadily implement the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, while listening closely to the earnest voices of local communities including Okinawa, and exerting our best efforts to promote the development of these communities.
In order to resolve North Korea's abduction, nuclear and missile issues, we will further strengthen our solidarity with the international community. We will make every effort with an iron will, until the return of all the abductees will be achieved.
Global warming is a common global agenda, which affects the existence of humanity. I proposed the "Cool Earth 50" initiative at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, and gained understanding for the idea of a framework in which all major greenhouse gas emitters can participate. Our environmental technologies make our country proud in the world. We will achieve compatibility between environment and economy in a way characteristic of Japan, which regards the environment not as a constraint on but rather as a boost for economic growth, through such means as the promotion of widespread use of energy conservation technologies overseas.
I will continue to take the leadership so that we can make further progress at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to be held next year.
On the issue of political funding, which we have been severely criticized about, it is indispensable to enhance transparency even further. I look for all parties, parliamentary groups, and the Diet to engage in full discussion toward revision of the Political Funds Control Law. The Cabinet, on its part, will do its utmost to regain the confidence of the people in politics as soon as possible.
On the Constitution, which delineates the shape and form of the country, the enactment of the National Referendum Law has created a conducive environment for deepening discussions on revision. I hope that discussions to meet the expectations of the people will continue to be conducted.
Today, I have spoken with candor my beliefs and thoughts. I will continue to listen to the opinions of the people attentively and explain my policies fully, and press forward in conducting the affairs of the state.
The statecraft I aspire for is one that, while adapting to severe changes in the environment surrounding our country, safeguards and nurtures the values that Japan possesses intrinsically, which we can still find in our daily lives such as a sense of self-discipline, compassion and warmth for others; statecraft that enables each and every person to feel true richness and satisfaction in their daily lives; namely, statecraft that advances the creation of a beautiful country. With a vision of how Japan should be in 50 years, and in 100 years, and never losing sight of our origins, I solemnly swear that I will give all my body and soul to fulfill the responsibilities of the Prime Minister.
I ask from my heart for the understanding and cooperation of the people of Japan and all members of the Diet.