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General Policy Speech by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the 163rd Session of the Diet
September 26, 2005
I have been entrusted with the great responsibility of the post of Prime Minister for the third time, following the recent general election. I am resolved to continue to push forward with the structural reform based on the stable foundation of the coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito under the policies of "no growth without reform," "leave to the private sector what it can do," and "leave to the localities what they can do."
Since my inauguration as Prime Minister of Japan, I have pressed forward with wide-ranging structural reform, encompassing financial, taxation, regulatory and expenditure reforms with the aim of reviving and developing Japan. The result of these reforms has been the achievement of the government's goal for the disposal of non-performing loans and the move towards a private sector-led economic recovery without relying on public spending.
We must not stop the reform now when the buds of reform are growing into large trees in a variety of fields.
In advancing reform, we face the fact that although basic policies for reform may receive support, once individual details start to be discussed, they come up against the wall of vested interests and deep-rooted opposition. People may agree in principle but disagree once they get down to the details. A typical example of this has been the privatization of the postal services. No one has ever tried to tackle this issue as it has been the one that has met with the strongest resistance.
Many are in agreement that we must "reduce the number of civil servants," "boldly push forward the administrative and fiscal reforms," and "leave to the private sector what it can do." Why is it the case then that the work of only the post office must be performed by civil servants and cannot be taken on by the private sector?
In the previous session of the Diet, the bills related to the privatization of the postal services were defeated. I sought to directly ascertain the will of the people about whether they truly judged the privatization of the postal services to be unnecessary. It was for this reason that I dissolved the House of Representatives. It was also due to my conviction that the privatization of the postal services is at the very "heart of the reforms" which will lead to structural reform in all kinds of fields including public and fiscal administration, economy, and finance.
In the recent general election in which the question of the need for the privatization of the postal services was put to the people, the LDP and New Komeito, the supporters of privatization, gained a mandate from many of the people of Japan. With public opinion as a significant source of support, I will resubmit the bills related to the privatization of the postal services to the Diet, which will deliberate them on behalf of the people. I am resolved to enact the bills.
The postal services employ 260,000 full-time national civil servants. The number of police officers nationwide, who are responsible for ensuring the safety and reassurance of the people of Japan, on the other hand, is as many as 250,000; the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces combined amount to 240,000 personnel; and the total staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including those who work at the ministry in Kasumigaseki and those dispatched to overseas establishments in over one hundred countries around the world, number less than 6,000. Is it really necessary for civil servants to continue to operate the postal services?
If the postal services were to be privatized, I believe that more diverse and better products and services would be developed and provided through ingenuity and knowledge. Utilizing the precious assets of the people as funds for the private sector will lead to economic vitalization. Postal privatization would also contribute to Japan's financial rehabilitation through payment of corporate taxes, from which the post office has previously being exempt, and through the sale of shares. The privatization of the postal services will accelerate the realization of a simple yet efficient government.
I am fully aware of the concerns raised among the people that privatization will bring "closure of post offices in sparsely populated areas" or "post offices will no longer handle savings and insurances." The Government will maintain the network of post offices which serve as a valuable asset for the people and will ensure that convenience for the people is not hindered in any way.
I will strive not only to privatize the postal services, which are the "entrance" of the funds, but also reform the government-related financial organizations, which are the funds' "exit" from the system.
By the end of next fiscal year, I will work to realize the reform package of the three issues of reducing subsidies by four trillion yen, transferring roughly three trillion yen in tax sources and reviewing the local allocation tax, under the policy of "leave to the localities what they can do," while seriously considering the local governments' opinions.
Since the inauguration of the Koizumi Cabinet, I have advanced expenditure reforms amounting to roughly ten trillion yen, including reducing expenditure on public works projects by about 40 percent. I will wholeheartedly tackle fiscal structural reform to make sure that by the early 2010s, policy-related expenditures will be covered by that fiscal year's tax revenues and other sources without having to rely on new debts. With regard to the remuneration of civil servants, I will review the remuneration system such that the remuneration situation of the private sector in each of the urban and rural areas is correctly reflected in that of the civil servants in their respective regions. I will also establish a target net reduction figure for the number of civil servants and reduce the total amount of personnel costs.
I will press forward with this structural reform and will thereby reduce the size of the government boldly.
Japan, with its birthrate decreasing together with the progression of an aging society, faces the prospect in the near future of a serious decrease in population. It is therefore essential to create a robust society, in which each and every one of us will be able to lead an affluent life, ensuring that we do not leave a burden for our children's and grandchildren's generations.
The social security system, which is based on the pillars of pension, medical care and long-term care, is the foundation that supports the daily lives of the people. I believe it is the responsibility of any political administration to realize a sustainable system with appropriate benefits and burden in order to eliminate the concerns of the people concerning their future. In particular, the pension system needs to be reformed from a long-term perspective, thus it is indispensable for the ruling and opposition parties to hold frank discussions and endeavor to bridge their differences of opinion.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest sympathy to the victims of the recent typhoons and other disasters as well as the hurricanes that hit the southern United States. I will make every effort for the recovery and reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas in Japan so that the victims will be able to lead their lives with peace of mind at the earliest date possible. I will also endeavor to build Japan into a country that can promptly deal with disasters through such measures as promotion of earthquake-resistant buildings.
In order to tackle the issue of asbestos, over which there are concerns that damage may further spread, the Government will take concerted action for measures to aid the victims of asbestos as well as towards its early and safe removal.
The peace and stability of the world are essential for the safety and prosperity of Japan. With the Japan-US alliance and international coordination as the basis for Japan's foreign policy, Japan will play an active role as a responsible member of the international community.
The international community is now faced with more complex and difficult challenges than ever imagined before, such as addressing development issues including overcoming poverty in developing countries, conserving the global environment, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The other day, in my address to the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the 60th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), I stressed the necessity of "an effective UN" to address many challenges we face today. With the understanding of and cooperation with like-minded countries, I will make the utmost efforts to strengthen the UN, including through reform of the Security Council.
The fight against terrorism is not over. Japan will cooperate with the international community and strive for the prevention and eradication of terrorism by, among other measures, extending the deadline of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law.
In Iraq, the Iraqi people themselves are making efforts to establish a peaceful democratic nation. Japan's financial assistance through ODA as well as humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities extended by the Self-Defense Forces have earned high praise from the people in Iraq. As to the future activities of the Self-Defense Forces, I will make my decision taking into consideration the requests of the Iraqi people and the international situation and upon closely assessing the situation in Iraq.
With neighboring countries including China and the Republic of Korea, Japan will strengthen cooperation in a wide range of areas and build future-oriented friendly relations based on mutual understanding and trust. On Japan-North Korea relations, I will aim to normalize our relations by comprehensively resolving the abduction, nuclear and missile issues.
Regarding the sharp rise in crude oil prices, there is concern that this will have a significant impact not only on Japan, one of the world's major oil importers, but also on Southeast Asian countries. In response, Japan swiftly released its oil reserves, and through such measures, is contributing to the international community. In order to prevent the occurrence of another oil crisis, we will continue to cooperate closely with other countries.
Japan will also actively advance its initiatives for bilateral economic partnership and work tirelessly toward reaching a final agreement at the new round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.
Politics is for the benefit of nation as a whole. It should not protect the vested interests of a small minority. Postal privatization has continuously been criticized by some as a "ridiculous proposal," but I believe that the results of the general election prove that the people deem it to be a "sound proposal."
Solemnly accepting the mandate expressed by the people of Japan, I consider it to be my responsibility to bring about the privatization of the postal services. Without fear of hardship, without flinching before the wall of vested interests, and without being fettered by past practices I will, with the cooperation of the people, give it my utmost and devote all my energies to fulfill my duties as Prime Minister.
Without reform there is no tomorrow. Without the support of the people reform cannot be achieved. The engine for these reforms is each and every one of the people of Japan. The success or failure of the reforms rests with the strong will of the people and the motivated action of the politicians. Signs of self-confidence are beginning to appear in Japanese society, with a spirit of challenge in a new era and a sense of "if you do it, it will happen." By ceaselessly pushing forward with reforms, let us take this opportunity to build a brighter future for Japan with courage and passion.
In this, from my heart I ask for the cooperation of the people of Japan and the distinguished members of the Diet.