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New Year's Reflection by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

January 1, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

Happy new year to everyone. It is my sincere wish that this year be a wonderful one for each and every person in Japan.

Half a year has passed since the launch of the Kan administration. Having taken up "revitalizing Japan by building the nation through growth and employment" as the goal for my Cabinet, we have implemented economic countermeasures centering on the supplementary budget, and in preparation for the next fiscal year we have compiled a "budget to bring vigor back to Japan." This incorporates the greatest possible assistance to foster greater peace of mind and vibrancy. Through the public's broad-based understanding and endorsement, we must pass this budget in the Diet. In view of this, here as we enter a new year I would like to set out once more the directions forward and principles for the building of the nation for which I am striving.

The first principle for building the nation is "the 21st-century opening of Japan". The rise of emerging economies is dramatically shifting global power relationships on both the security and economic fronts. In light of such circumstances, there are concerns that Japan may be becoming increasing inward-focused, as symbolized by the decreasing number of Japanese studying overseas. In an international society facing major changes that can be likened to a tectonic shift, new prospects cannot develop if we are fettered by conventional notions. I aim to make this year the base year for the opening of Japan in the 21st century, akin to the opening of Japan in the Meiji era, through which Japan started on the path to modernization, and to the opening of Japan after World War II, through which Japan began its reintegration into international society. We have already formulated a Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships. In accordance with this Basic Policy, we will bring our negotiations with the European Union, the Republic of Korea, and Australia into full swing, while also engaging in consultations with relevant countries concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

This third opening of Japan brings with it difficulties that did not exist in the openings Japan experienced in the past. In this context of diversifying values, we must set forth a clear vision and steadily and consistently accumulate efforts to form a consensus among the Japanese people. For example, some people have voiced concerns that agriculture, forestry, and fisheries will decline on account of trade liberalization. I will seek to eliminate preconceived notions such as the idea that trade liberalization and the continuation of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries are goals at odds with each other, and I will pursue new potential for Japan's agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. By the middle of this year, I intend to put forth policies that will achieve the opening up of Japan in a compatible way alongside the revitalization of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. In terms of security considerations, the East Asia region faces a situation of instability and uncertainty, including North Korean issues and maritime issues. Japan will undertake all possible means to ensure the peace of mind and the security of the Japanese people, both by Japan herself engaging in defense-related efforts and also by reinforcing the Japan-U.S. alliance in a way appropriate for the twenty-first century.

The second principle I have set forth is that of "achieving a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum". A major premise for enabling all people living in Japan to pursue our dreams fully is minimizing to the extent possible sources of misery such as illness, poverty, and unemployment. The budget for fiscal 2011 not only incorporates an expansion of the child allowance, the establishment of a system to support job seekers, and means to ensure the stabilization of pensions, but also through an expansion of the review of government programs (jigyou shiwake) kept to the goal of putting finances on a sound footing established at the very beginning [of my administration]. However, limitations have emerged in securing fiscal resources for expanding social security through such efforts alone. Public finances are inherently means for bringing about, through the spirit of sharing, a social safety net and support for activities, which are to be enjoyed by the public. We will now deepen discussions among the public regarding what kind of arrangement is most suitable for Japan, and I intend to set forth by the middle of this year a picture of fundamental reforms, including the consumption tax along with an overall picture for the social security system.

The third principle I have set forth for building the country is that of "politics that rectifies absurdities". In order to open up Japan and achieve a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum, it is indispensable to have politics worthy of public trust. I believe that in undertaking politics that properly rectifies unfair or absurd matters, we can garner the trust of the public at not merely the level of a political party or an administration but also the political system as a whole, making it possible to drive forward with major reforms. Last year, I established task force teams to address the issues of employment for new graduates, the elimination of childcare waiting lists, countermeasures to human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), and the return of remains from the island of Ioto. It will simply not do to leave unaddressed an absurd situation in which people are suffering. Thus I have shifted into action this creed of mine as a politician and this spirit under which the DPJ came into being as a party. Moreover, I believe that the expectations of the Japanese people were also seen in the historic change of government that took place the year before last, in that they wanted to see eliminated the absurdities to which politics until that time had paid little heed. Regrettably, the orientation of our administration towards the issue of "money politics" is now being questioned. I pledge that this will be the year to resolve this disappointing matter and push through reforms that have received the support of the public.

Last year, I observed a variety of sites out in the field, including the Kyoto Job Park and Hello Work in Shinjuku, a service to prevent isolation by the elderly in the city of Ashiya, and vibrant agricultural initiatives in Chiba and Yamagata in which members of the younger generation are also participating. At such places there were people mutually supporting each other to overcome adversity, with strenuous efforts underway to enable the pursuit of dreams. In Himeji, a person serving as a volunteer probation officer while himself battling an illness told me, "When a young person I have helped somehow goes to school, the day of his or her graduation makes me as happy as if it were my own." A person assisting newly graduating job seekers in Shinjuku shed tears of joy when a university student that had been assigned to him explained, "Through meeting this person I overcame a very difficult situation and was able to find employment." As the person holding the reins of government, I learned a great deal from these faithful efforts - the preciousness of devoting oneself to people trying to recover from unemployment, isolation, or other kinds of adversity, the dynamism of hospitable support at the local level, and the humility of steady, ongoing support that takes the perspective of others.

I believe that what connects all three principles for building the nation that I have laid forth are the bonds of mutual support and sharing. It is because we support each other mutually during the hard times that we are also able to share our joy. I will foster Japan's bonds together with all the Japanese people, to make them thicker and stronger. I will strive to make this year just such a year.

January 1, 2011
Naoto Kan
Prime Minister of Japan