Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
At the opening the 169th session of the Diet, I would like to express my views on the conduct of the affairs of state.
During the last session of the Diet, as a result of sincere discussions amongst all of the political parties and political factions, we were able to enact various laws, including the Revised Law to Provide Assistance for the Recovery of the Livelihoods of those Affected by Disasters and the Revised Political Funds Control Law. On the issue of political funding, we will continue to make further efforts to enhance transparency, to restore the trust of the people back in politics. The Diet conducted thorough deliberations on the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law, in recognition of the need for Japan to fulfill its responsibility as a member of the international community and to resume refueling activities that are in line with our national interests. Unfortunately, we could not gain the support of the opposition parties for the legislation, however we were ultimately able to enact the Law.
There are many policy issues that must be addressed in this Diet session as well, such as the budget and other important bills that are directly related to the daily lives of the Japanese people. I firmly believe that it is precisely the responsibility of those in politics vis-a-vis the people to ensure that the ruling and opposition parties conduct thorough discussions based on a relationship of trust and reach decisions to conduct the affairs of state. I will continue to do my utmost to conduct responsible politics, based on the foundation of the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party, by providing an explanation of policies clearly and in detail, and by proactively incorporating the views of the opposition parties. In this regard, I would like to ask once again for the understanding and cooperation of the entire nation as well as the members of the Diet.
Currently, Japan is faced with many challenges.
How do we maintain our economic strength amid a changing global economy symbolized by the rapid economic growth of China and India? How do we maintain our social security system under the austere fiscal situation? How do we cope with the declining birth rate? How do we address the problems of growing non-permanent employment and sluggish economy in local regions? How do we respond to fierce international competition in science and technology? And what kind of prescription do we write to address the issues of global environment, natural resources and energy?
In addition to these structural challenges, there are immediate issues which require our attention, such as rising prices of gasoline and daily necessities and responding to the impacts to our economy triggered by the U.S. sub-prime loan issue.
The question facing us as a mature industrialized nation today is how we overcome such kind of challenges which no other countries have experienced, and carve out our future. There are no precedents which could serve as models, and we must create a new Japan with our own hands while preserving our culture and tradition.
After the war, Japan rebuilt itself from the ashes and became the second largest economic nation in the world. Though we might have benefited from fortunate times, ultimately we have accomplished our reconstruction through the efforts of each and every individual. In comparison with those days, Japan now has various strengths that we can utilize. We have more than 1,500 trillion yen of personal financial assets, and whatever Japan produces, not only in manufacturing but also in culture and art, is receiving high evaluation. Japan has many world top class enterprises and we can be proud of their technological edge in the world. Furthermore, Japan enjoys overall favorable relationships with neighboring countries, and thus the world expects us to play an important role.
The remaining question, I believe, is how we can create a country which enables its citizens to embrace forward-looking dreams.
The mission of my Cabinet is to solicit the vitality of the Japanese people and to set a stage for vigorous citizens to play active roles. The administration should as always put itself in the shoes of the citizens and take into account what the people want. To this aim, first and foremost, we need to create a framework to eliminate anxiety for the future, and based on that foundation, to create an economic society in which people can really feel the benefit of growth.
Japan cannot exist without amicable relations, including vigorous trade, with foreign countries. The peace and stability of the world is extremely important for Japan. Furthermore, from a broader perspective, we need to earnestly address the issue of the global environment in order to sustain our future livelihood on a global scale. To achieve these objectives, we must:
1) "Shift to administrative and financial policies that put the people first" to realize a society in which the people and the consumers play the leading roles.
2) "Establish a social security system and ensure safety" so that the people can live with a sense of security.
3) "Create an economic society with vitality" in which the people can feel affluence.
4) "Make Japan a Peace Fostering Nation" that plays an active role in addressing global issues.
5) "Convert to a low carbon society" which enables prevention of global warming and economic growth at the same time.
Based on these five guiding principles, I will conduct the affairs of state. Upholding the principle of "self-reliance and mutual cooperation" - the ideal of overcoming hardships by ourselves while supporting and encouraging each other when in trouble - I will do my best to realize the politics and administration which are trustworthy and which place priority on the people.
I: Shifting to Administrative and Fiscal Policies that Put the People First
In order to give new vitality to the people and enhance their quality of life, we must revise the laws, systems, and furthermore, administration policy and politics, all of which have been created from the standpoint of producers and suppliers, and make these truly centered on the public interest. There has been a succession of cases where administrative institutions and public organizations, established for the safety and welfare of the people, have rather acted to the detriment of the people. I am determined to devote my utmost efforts to restore this state of affairs in the correct manner.
Positioning the year 2008 as the starting year towards "a society in which the people and the consumers play leading roles," we will review all systems. We will establish a new organization with strong authority in order to promote, in a uniform and systematic manner, consumer policy, which is now conducted separately by each ministry and agency concerned. This measure includes a response to the falsification of food labels, in addition to the "comprehensive review from the public's viewpoint" of laws and systems that is currently underway. In conjunction, we will establish a permanent post of Minister for Consumer Affairs. The new organization will serve as a focal point for opinions and complaints from the public, directly reflect them to policy, and will serve as the helmsman of the government of which the consumer is protagonist, and I intend to decide on the details as soon as possible.
Reforming the mindset of civil servants is also necessary. Under the principle of "always standing in the public's position," we will work to significantly alter the way in which civil servants, including those in direct contact with the people, conduct their work, through endeavors, for instance, to simplify government procedures for the sake of the public's convenience.
(Administrative and Financial Reforms to Restore the Trust of the People)
With the progression of an aging society, inevitably the costs of social security services including pensions and medical care will increase. Responses to the challenges of a new era, including the issue of global warming, will also be required. We will resolutely and thoroughly implement administrative and fiscal reforms in order to secure resources for areas that are truly necessary for the daily lives of the people, and to restore trust in the executive branch of government.
The budget for the coming fiscal year has carefully factored in such important policy issues as boosting growth potential, revitalization of the regions, and security and peace of mind, achieving a well-modulated allocation of resources. In addition to keeping new government bonds below the level of this fiscal year, we have made progress in reform of special budget accounts, and appropriated 9.8 trillion yen for redemption of government bonds. In the next fiscal year, we will achieve a net reduction of civil servants exceeding 4,000 persons.
In terms of budget implementation, I point out in particular that with regard to discretionary contracts, we have established a third-party Bidding and Tendering Audit Committee in each of the government ministries and agencies. We will thoroughly convert discretionary contracts into general competitive tenders, will stringently monitor the status of all contracts and publicly disclose the findings. In addition, ensuring the neutrality of the Board of Audit and strengthening its functions are also necessary.
We will abolish or privatize independent administrative corporations under the criterion of whether they are truly indispensable, and limit their operations to those consistent with their original purposes. The Cabinet will be involved in an integrated manner in the evaluation of their work and in their personnel matters. Discretionary contracts with related institutions will be abolished and contracts will be amended to meet competitive principles.
In order to promote stable growth, and by continuing such efforts to restore fiscal health, we will promote integral reforms of government revenue and expenditure, and as a first step, we will make sure to achieve a surplus in the primary fiscal balance of the central and local governments in FY2011.
With regard to tax revenues earmarked for road projects, road development projects for regional independence and revitalization will be restricted, in light of the stringent fiscal situation, to those which are truly necessary, and these, too, will be thoroughly rationalized. Measures that are vital for the daily lives of the public, including road repairs and maintenance, easy transport access to emergency hospitals, anti-congestion measures in urban areas, and removing of bottleneck railway crossings must be implemented. In addition, current tax rates need to be maintained in order to take measures against global warming. The structure of special purpose tax revenues will be reviewed and, with the understanding of taxpayers, we will secure general tax revenues.
We must reexamine the civil service from its very base. In order to restore trust in the executive, we will promote a comprehensive reform of the civil service to enable civil servants to enhance their capacities and to execute their duties from the public's point of view with pride as well as a sense of responsibility.
We will take thorough measures to further enhance the discipline and ethics of national civil servants, who are the servants of the public.
It is extremely regrettable that a series of scandals, including the arrest of the former Vice-Minister, have gravely shaken trust in the Ministry of Defense. The Council for Reforming the Ministry of Defense will examine all working methods and practices at the Ministry to date. We will reform the Ministry for it to start anew by taking fundamental measures to ensure civilian control, establish a rigorous information security system, and ensure transparency in defense procurement, strive to raise the morale in the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and develop their structures, so that the SDF members and Ministry staff can engage in their activities for national defense and international contribution with pride.
The careless management of public documents, such as pension records, is absolutely unacceptable. We will conduct a fundamental review of the modalities for managing administrative records and will consider their legislation, and furthermore, we will improve the system for preserving public records, including expanding the national archives system.
II: Establishing a Social Security System and Ensuring Safety
The sustainability of a social security system that supports the basis of the people's daily lives, including medical care, pensions, nursing care, and welfare, is currently being called into question by the progression of the declining birthrate and aging society, among other factors. There are numerous points on which we need to reflect, with regard to whether or not administration of the system has been conducted from the standpoint of the recipients of the various benefits and services. Now is the time to shift to the perspective of the public and to rebuild the social security system based on the principle of self-reliance and mutual cooperation, in order to ensure the system's sustainability in the future and to give peace of mind to the public.
With regard to the problem of pension records, I once again express my sincere apologies to the public for the great inconvenience it has caused. Based on the policy decided by the government and ruling coalition last July, we are currently conducting a computer-based matching of some 50 million cases of unattributed records against payment records of 100 million people -- the entire population of pension recipients and subscribers -- and we are using the "Pension Special Notification Service" to inform individuals who, as a result of the review, may possibly be linked to an unidentified pension record. This process is being carried out on schedule and is due to be completed by the end of March this year. After that, we will send notifications to other people as well. All current pension recipients should receive a notification during April or May, and all current pension subscribers should receive a notification between June and October. While asking each member of the public to confirm his or her own payment records during that time, for its part, the government shall steadily integrate all pension records. To ensure a prompt record verification process, a nationwide effort shall be conducted, under collaboration with local governments and the business community. In addition, from April next year, we will send "Pension Notifications" to all active pension subscribers. In so doing, we will prevent this kind of problem from ever recurring. Although the current pension issue has arisen due to the accumulation of various problems over more than 40 years, nevertheless, I will do my utmost to resolve the issue during the tenure of my Cabinet. Thus I seek the public's kind understanding and cooperation.
At the same time, we will ensure that the Japan Pensions Organization to be established upon the dissolution of the Social Insurance Agency shall securely carry out pension payments and other services to the public's satisfaction. We will make the current pension system, which is beset by a host of problems, into a truly secure and trustworthy system.
In addition to the pension system, the social security system and countermeasures against the declining birthrate are extremely important issues that concern the entire nation, and the burden borne by the people in the form of insurance fees and taxes will vary according to the levels of payment and services provided. Accordingly, I have decided to convene a "National Commission on Social Security," with participants from various sectors and social strata, who will discuss such matters as the appropriate modalities for social security, the government's role in the system, and how the burden should be apportioned, so that we will be able to allay the public's concerns in an era of aging society.
A stable source of revenue needs to be secured in order to make the social security system for the future sustainable. To that end, we must promptly realize a fundamental reform of the taxation system, including the consumption tax, from the standpoint that all generations should broadly and equitably share the costs required to pay for social security and for countermeasures against the declining birthrate. I strongly hope that all political parties and factions will engage in serious and thorough discussions on this issue, which is of concern to each member of the public, so that a way is found which enables people to live with peace of mind on the future.
The low birthrate is an issue that affects the vitality of the nation, thus it is necessary for society as a whole to tackle it and to produce steady results. As a part of these efforts, we will implement a new "zero-waiting list for nursery schools" strategy that will tackle the issue from both the qualitative and quantitative sides, such as by improving the diversity of childcare services to address the needs of varying domestic situations, and by expanding the number of children who are accepted into nursery school. Also, as the second of two wheels on the same axle, we will reform working practices, such as by achieving numerical targets on reducing overtime work, as has been indicated in the action guideline of the Charter for Work-Life Balance, and by expanding the scope of childcare leave systems.
On the medical treatment front, where a variety of problems are being encountered at present, we will construct a patient-comes-first medical system that will allow each member of the public to feel more at ease. We will mount a response to improve the excessively heavy workload faced by hospital doctors and to ease the current shortages of gynecologists and pediatricians that will include a revision of medical service fees and increases in students admitted to medical departments at university. In addition, we will proceed with a study of a system to identify the causes of medical accidents so as to prevent their recurrence and to ensure that doctors can engage in medical care with a greater sense of ease. Furthermore, we will enhance emergency medical services, through such measures as emergency information sharing between related organizations through the use of information technology.
On the issue of hepatitis contraction through blood products, a decision has been taken to provide uniform compensation to all who have contracted the disease, under agreement of both the ruling coalition and the opposition parties. In addition, we will carry out a review of therapeutic goods administration to prevent a recurrence of this problem, and we will undertake comprehensive measures to help those with hepatitis, such as subsidizing medical fees and expansion of free medical examinations.
Regarding medical care for the elderly and support for self-reliance for the disabled, we will consider what is required from the standpoint of the elderly and the disabled and take measures which are well suited to the actual needs.
(Ensuring Safety and Security)
Trust in the public order is vital to a safe and secure lifestyle. We will strengthen efforts to eliminate harmful content from the Internet, to monitor and arrest financing of organized crime, and to tighten regulations on firearms. The number of deaths resulting from traffic accidents fell to less than 6,000 last year for the first time in half a century. We will continue to implement effective measures in this area.
With the aim of zero fatalities in the event of natural disasters, we will advance measures to support the elderly and people with disabilities, and to strengthen the earthquake resistance of elementary and junior high school buildings as well as of private housing. Every possible measure will also be taken to help those who have suffered from natural disasters to rebuild their lives. We will undertake comprehensive disaster prevention measures, by promoting measures for densely populated urban areas, advancing disaster prevention measures for tall buildings, and by creating evacuation areas and disaster prevention bases in preparation for large-scale earthquakes.
III: Creating an Economic Society with Vitality
As the aging of our society truly advances, sustained economic growth is essential for maintaining vitality in the economy, as well as enhancing the social security system and countermeasures against the declining birthrate. It is quite possible to maintain economic growth in harmony with the environment if on the one hand we enhance Japan's strengths, such as the high quality of our workforce and our spirit of harmony, as well as our advanced technologies in the environmental field, while on the other address, head on, those sectors that have lagged behind in internationalization. I will call upon the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy to translate into concrete measures the Economic Growth Strategy that consists of the following three pillars, and I will implement the Strategy without delay. We will make appropriate responses to the rising price of crude oil and the stagnation in the stock market while paying close attention to their impact on the economy.
(Acceleration of Technological Innovation)
First of all, we will carry out a "Strategy for Creation of Innovative Technology," in order to maintain levels of technology that will exceed that of all other nations.
Last year, researchers at Kyoto University astonished the world by succeeding in creating embryonic stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) from human skin tissue. Going forward, budgetary allocations will be made with an emphasis on such areas of research and development (R&D) that will underpin the future growth of Japan, not limited to environmental technologies but also including bio-tech and medicine-related technologies. At the same time, we will expand the taxation system conducive to R&D so as to promote greater R&D investment in the private sector. We will steadily implement the Intellectual Property Strategy in order to advance the creation of research centers of the highest global standards, and to appropriately protect research achievements and ensure that they lead to further growth.
Furthermore, we will create a society in which the elderly and people with disabilities can live comfortably by further utilizing ubiquitous technologies that capitalize on information and robot technologies.
(A Japan that is Open to the World)
Secondly, we will carry out a "Global Strategy" that makes Japan more open to the world, and expands flows of people, goods, money, and information to and from Asia and the world. In order to turn the vitality of the world into energy for Japan's growth, we will work for an early conclusion of the negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as the negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with countries in the Asia-Pacific region; furthermore, we will enhance transparency in the systems that govern foreign investment into Japan, and achieve, without fail, the plan to double the amount of foreign investment into Japan. We will aim to make Japan one of the core global financial centers by liberalizing Japan's aviation industry and increasing the efficiency of trade procedures, and also by further enhancing the international competitiveness of Japan's financial and capital markets.
We will formulate and implement a "Plan for 300,000 Exchange Students," and will increase the number of highly capable foreign nationals at graduate schools and companies in Japan, through collaboration among industry, academia and the government.
(An Economy in Which All Participate Drawing on the Vitality of the Agricultural Sector, Small and Medium Enterprises and From which Everyone can Feel the Benefits of Growth)
Thirdly, we will carry out an "Economic Strategy in which All Participate, " in order to achieve a simultaneous expansion of employment and an improvement in productivity, and to allow everyone to feel the benefits of growth. To ensure employment for everyone willing to work, we must achieve numerical targets, agreed upon amongst the government, labor and management, at minimum, concerning a rise in the labor participation ratios of women and people in their 60s, as well as a decrease in the number of "freeters." To this end, we will re-consider the modalities of the retirement system and rules on continuous employment and reemployment of workers over 60 years old; and we will introduce a "job card" system in April. To improve labor distribution ratios, we will rectify the disparities between regular and non-regular employment, and review the worker dispatch system including an effort to make day workers more appropriate. We will focus our efforts on fostering experts in various fields with high levels of skill and knowledge. With particular emphasis on areas showing little progress in women's participation in the workforce, we will strategically work to realize a "gender-equal society" so as to realize women's motivation to work.
It is the latent strengths of small and medium enterprises that sustain the vitality of Japan's economy. We will establish 200 to 300 regional coordination centers across the country with the aim of further strengthening our "networking ability" -- one of the strengths of Japan -- so as to revitalize regional economies and to increase productivity of small and medium enterprises. We will support efforts, in which the coordination centers play leading roles, to create new products and services drawing on the collective expertise of experienced retirees of large companies, small and medium enterprises, those involved in agriculture, and universities, capitalizing on the full use of information technology. We will also conduct a fundamental review of taxation measures so as to facilitate the succession of business at small and medium enterprises.
We will enhance the vitality of agriculture, forestry and fisheries -- the key industries of local areas -- by strengthening the coordination among agriculture, commerce and industry, in which the technologies of the manufacturing industry and know-how of the distribution industry are utilized by those involved in agriculture. We will assist motivated people's hard work, while advancing concrete reform of agricultural land policy to promote concentration and efficient use of farm lands. In order to give peace of mind to small-scale and elderly farmers, we will strive for finely-calibrated measures, for example, those which ease the conditions required to launch collective agricultural operations.
(2. Creation of Regions with Vitality)
The vitality of local regions is the source of vitality for the nation as a whole. Pursuant to the "Regional Revitalization Strategy" formulated last November, the government will collectively and strongly support the initiatives by local regions based on their ingenuity and innovation. We will also promote measures to prevent population drains by securing functions necessary for daily life in each regional sphere covering cities and their surrounding areas.
With regard to projects promoted by local regions, the government will fully support their start-up under the "Revitalization Project for Regions." We will develop communication infrastructure in local regions, and support measures to concentrate public facilities and housing facilities in the center of their urban districts and to introduce street car services. Support will also be extended to the activities of non-profit organizations (NPOs) that actively promote endeavors to tackle various issues in the community, such as crime prevention and child raising.
Tourism promotion is a centerpiece to regional vitalization. We will newly establish the Tourism Agency to actively showcase the unique nature and culture of the local regions, and to strengthen efforts to attract tourists not only from within Japan but also from abroad.
We will create a Regional Vitality Restoration Organization, which will assist the business rehabilitation of medium enterprises and semi-public-sector companies in local regions, in coordination with regional financial institutions and local public authorities.
Under the concept of "mutual cooperation" between local regions and cities, we will review the corporate enterprise tax and take interim measures to reduce the uneven distribution of tax resources among local regions, emphasizing allotment to fiscally-stringent municipal governments. We intend to channel these efforts toward a fundamental reform of the taxation system. We will accelerate the discussion on decentralization reform involving further transfer of power from the central to local governments and present the people with the vision and modality of Japan after the decentralization process. We will also deepen the national debate on the introduction of a system of a broader regional government (doshu-sei).
IV: Pursuing diplomacy which contributes to peace and development in the world
In order to benefit at home from a robust global economy, and in order to lead the world in the environmental area, it is essential to strengthen Japan's diplomatic capacity. At present, the world is confronted with various difficult challenges which cannot be resolved by one country alone. Included, in addition to security issues such as the fight against terrorism, are global warming and poverty. A peaceful and stable international society constitutes an invaluable asset for Japan; thus Japan needs to cooperate to the utmost for this end. With the Japan-U.S. security alliance and international cooperation as the basis, Japan will actively address these global challenges, and play a responsible role in the international community as a "Peace Fostering Nation" which contributes to peace and development in the world. We will strive to create a country that toils for the common interests of the region and the world, a country which is full of charm and has sublime aspirations.
We will be actively engaged in the fight against terrorism and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We will resume refueling activities in the Indian Ocean, and continue our assistance to the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq for the reconstruction of their countries. In order to rebuild conflict-affected regions, it is important to ensure security and to promote reconstruction simultaneously. Japan aspires to become a hub of human resource development as well as for research and intellectual contribution to further promote cooperation in the field of peace-building. In addition, we will proceed with consideration of a so-called "general law" for the purpose of implementing expeditiously and effectively international peace cooperation activities.
Peace fostering is not limited to the security area in the narrow sense of the term. Eradication of poverty as well as improvement in health and hygienic conditions are humanitarian requirements, but at the same time, they provide hope and opportunity to all peoples, paving the way towards peace and stability. This year, Japan will host the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) and the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit meeting; at these meetings and others, Japan will cooperate with the G8 countries, EU and other parties in order to resolve such issues within the scope of "human security." Japan will also promote international cooperation so as to utilize Japan's accumulated know-how on disaster reduction and disaster management overseas, due to the frequency of natural disasters in this country.
In order to fulfill its role as a "Peace Fostering Nation," Japan needs to broaden the stage where it conducts its diplomatic activities. For this, we will pursue the goal of becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and will work towards United Nations reform. We will strive to contribute internationally not least in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, and will promote diplomacy to secure natural and energy resources.
(Developing Friendly Bilateral Relations)
The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy, and we will work to further solidify our relationship of trust and to further promote human and intellectual exchanges which provide the foundation of the alliance. We will steadily implement the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, based on the idea of maintaining deterrence and reducing burdens, while listening closely to the earnest voices of local communities including Okinawa and exerting our best efforts to promote the development of these communities.
I have embarked on "synergy diplomacy" with my visits to the United States, Singapore, and China last year. With China, we will deepen the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests through cooperation, inter alia, on energy conservation and environment, and build a relationship which contributes to the peace and stability in Asia and the world. With regard to the Republic of Korea, we will build a future-oriented and stable relationship with the next President, who will be inaugurated in February. With Russia, we will advance territorial negotiations with a view to upgrading bilateral relations to a higher dimension, while striving to promote exchanges in a broad range of fields.
We call upon North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, through the Six-Party Talks and other fora, in cooperation with the relevant countries. We will continue to exert our maximum efforts to realize the immediate return of all the abductees, settle the unfortunate past, and normalize the relations between Japan and North Korea.
Japan, as a country surrounded on all sides by the sea, will pursue comprehensive ocean policies, including survey on continental shelves, by the government as a whole with a view to becoming a "maritime nation."
(Conversion to a "Low Carbon Society")
Global environmental issues are the most serious challenge to humankind in the twenty-first century. We must promote, without delay, reductions in greenhouse gases on a global scale and under international cooperation. Japan has thus far thoroughly developed and introduced energy-saving technologies, which have enabled it to achieve the highest standards of energy efficiency in the world. Taking maximum advantage of such "environmental prowess", Japan will lead the international community by converting itself into a "low carbon society" which will serve as a precedent for the world to emulate.
For this, Japan must set an example by steadfastly fulfilling its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by six percent. During this fiscal year, Japan will revise its target achievement plan of the Kyoto Protocol. And in addition to further efforts by the industrial sector to reduce emissions, we will work hard on energy-saving measures by the consumer sector whose energy consumption has been rising, in a manner which gains cooperation from the public.
The G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit will provide a major opportunity to demonstrate Japan's efforts in tackling environmental issues. As the G8 Presidency, Japan will take the lead in creating a new, effective framework which includes all major emitters, with a view to attaining the long-term goal of halving emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 in a manner compatible with economic growth.
In order to boost motivations to tackle environmental issues by the international community as a whole, Japan will contribute not least in financial terms, but also in personnel and technological terms to address common challenges, such as assistance to developing countries, countermeasures against environmental damage and the development of advanced technologies. We will build a financial mechanism to implement assistance to developing countries with high aspiration to reduce greenhouse gases as well as countermeasures against environmental damage caused by climate change such as drought and floods.
The world needs Japan's environment-related technologies which are at the highest level in the world. For the time being, it is important to accelerate the development of further energy-saving technologies as well as measures to promote the widespread use of new energy sources such as the propagation of biomass fuel-producing technologies which do not affect food production and the commercialization of fuel cells. In the mid- to long term, we must develop revolutionary technologies which will ultimately eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases towards the fundamental resolution of the climate change issues. For this, we will formulate an "Environmental Energy Technology Revolution Plan" to overcome these technological challenges.
In order to convert Japan into a low carbon society, a fundamental transformation in the structure of society, such as in people's lifestyles, cities and transport is required. Endeavors on "Two-hundred year housing" are one of such efforts. We will also build model cities for the environment, by selecting ten cities which are willing to collaborate with regional governments and set high goals such as drastically reducing greenhouse gases, and to take up the challenge of adopting innovative measures. Roundtable meetings of informed persons on environmental issues are planned, so that we can show clearly to the public what a low carbon society is like, and how it can be achieved. We ask the public to support efforts to create a low carbon society and to take part.
(Development of the Human Resources who will Carry us Forward into Tomorrow)
It is "people" who will play the most important role in carrying out the aforementioned policies. It is the responsibility of adults to create an environment that fosters the development of young people, who have affection for their community and country, who are fully prepared to act on the international stage and who will carry Japan forward into tomorrow. We will endeavor to rebuild education through efforts undertaken not only by schools but also by families, local communities and the administration jointly, so that young people can develop into self-reliant individuals with high aspirations and fortitude to make their own way in society, while nurturing the spirit of mutual cooperation with peers and members of local communities.
With a view to establishing a reliable public education, we will revise the Teaching Guidelines to secure the necessary classroom hours, strengthen efforts to enhance the basic academic abilities and abilities to apply acquired knowledge, and focus our efforts on trial experiences, sports activities, and moral education. We will increase the amount of time for teachers to engage fully in face-to-face interaction with students by increasing the number of teachers employed, and we will also strive to enhance the quality of teachers.
Moreover, as international competition intensifies, it is becoming an increasingly pressing matter to enhance our higher education capacity, to ensure that our younger generations can secure our nation's future and acquire the skills they will need to act dynamically on the global stage. Our goal is for Japanese universities and graduate schools to receive high evaluation by international standards, and become global centers for human resource development and research.
It is the mission of those living today to further develop the excellent Japanese culture and arts. We will foster those young people who will bear forth new elements of our culture, such as animation and music, and make steady efforts for the succession and development of traditional culture and arts that Japan is proud of, as well as for the preservation and utilization of cultural assets.
(Deepening Discussions on the Constitution)
Regarding discussions on the Constitution, which lays out the foundation of our nation, the National Referendum Law was enacted during last year's ordinary session of the Diet, owing to the efforts of all those involved. Naturally, this is a matter that should be decided upon by the Diet, and I strongly hope that sincere discussions will take place with a view towards reaching a broad-based agreement with the participation of all political parties in an appropriate setting within the Diet on various issues that were carried over in the deliberation of the National Referendum Law and the content of any possible revision, if it is to be revised.
In December of last year, I attended the 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in Oita Prefecture. At the summit, Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia of Tuvalu stressed the shocking crisis his nation is facing when he stated, "As a result of global warming, Tuvalu, an island nation, is sinking into the ocean."
There has been concern for such a situation, and I asked the Minister of Environment to visit Tuvalu on the first day of this year, and received an up-to-date report on the situation.
I immediately considered assistance to Tuvalu, and renewed my resolve to tackle the global warming challenge head on.
Throughout our history, humanity has overcome numerous obstacles, and thus arrived at the 21st Century. What we face today is unlike the issues that we faced in the 20th Century with conflicting interests of different nations, such as war and the development of nuclear weapons; a crisis that, if left untouched, will bring about the destruction of the entire Earth itself.
In the face of this global crisis, Japan must play an extremely important role.
Japan possesses the most powerful weapons in the battle against the global environment crisis; namely, technological capabilities in energy conservation and environmental preservation. It was with this technological prowess that Japan built a society achieving one of the highest energy efficiency rates in the world.
How then, did it become possible?
It was because Japan possessed the ability to develop excellent technologies, in the form of a treasure chest of precious human resources. Japan, which has experienced energy crises on a number of occasions, overcame each of these crises by utilizing the strength and capacity of our people, resulting in a nation with the high technological capabilities that may just hold the key to saving our planet.
The strengths of both our nation and the people are now called upon by the world to realize a low-carbon society in which unnecessary emissions are reduced to the minimum. Moreover, protecting the global environment will, in effect, protect the lives of our beloved families, our children and their grand children.
I believe in the power of the Japanese people. I am convinced that the Japanese people have the strength to overcome whatever difficulties lying before us, and that we will, without fail, carve the way toward the future.
"If you are going to dig a well, dig until the water bubbles forth."
These are the words of Rikinosuke Ishikawa, an agricultural leader of Japan during the Meiji Era. Mr. Ishikawa tirelessly devoted his life to the development of impoverished agricultural villages in the Tohoku region of Japan. He taught us all of the importance of striving onward unflinchingly, without ever giving up, under any circumstance, until you achieve results.
In undertaking various endeavors, Mr. Ishikawa said, "Trust is the most difficult thing to gain. Progress is fostered in a nest built on solid bonds of trust."
In advancing the various policies that I have laid out today, I will, no matter what difficulties may appear, forge onward with all of my might without ever giving up, until I deliver the results. I am determined to create that nest built on trust which fosters progress between the people on the one hand, and the administration and politics on the other, so that Japan will make progress towards a vibrant nation that contributes to the world.
In this, I earnestly seek the understanding and cooperation of my fellow citizens.