As the 146th Session of the Diet opens, I would like to state my views on the challenges that stand before us, and would humbly ask for the understanding and cooperation of each and every Japanese person.
In my belief that it is in the interest of the Japanese Nation and State for the political parties able to share common policies to collectively formulate and effect better policies under political stability through earnest discussion, I have established a tripartite coalition government on the basis of wide-ranging policy consensus among the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Liberal Party, and the New Komeito-Reformers' Network Party.
Coming so soon after the new Cabinet reshuffle, the inappropriate remarks made by a Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense were extremely regrettable. We have subsequently accepted his resignation and appointed a new Vice Minister in his place. Japan has taken the initiative in spearheading nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation policies in the international community, and there is absolutely no change in our policy of adhering to the three non-nuclear principles. Further, his contemptible comments concerning women were made with utter disregard to both the feelings of women and the principle of human rights, and were completely inexcusable. As the person who was responsible for this appointment, I offer the people of Japan my heartfelt apologies.
The recently formulated Law for Activating Deliberation in the Diet will see an increasing role for parliamentary vice ministers that will require a deep sense of self-awareness and responsibility. I have without delay instructed all parliamentary vice ministers to measure themselves by strict standards as they perform their functions with diligence and industry, and taking this opportunity, the Cabinet as a whole has resolved to collectively take a conscientious approach to the challenges before us.
In the previous Ordinary Session of the Diet, during which the Cabinet was based on the bipartite coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, we were able to achieve significant results in cooperation with the New Komeito-Reformers' Network Party. It is my unwavering conviction that a coalition government is the best way forward at present, and based on the solid foundations of the tripartite coalition, I am determined to achieve successful results so as to receive the understanding of the people of Japan and to fully respond to their trust and expectations.
I am truly delighted that the Japanese nationals kidnapped in the Kyrgyz Republic have been freed without harm. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the hardships endured by these four gentlemen, and to extend my gratitude to President Askar Akaevich Akaev of the Kyrgyz Republic and the many other people involved for their support.
This Session of the Diet, opening as it does in the final stages of one millennium and at the threshold of another, must be a highly productive one. Centering on the issues to be under deliberation in the Diet, I would like today to announce the basic policies of the Cabinet to the people of Japan, narrowing my focus to encompass in particular three issues with which we are faced: the economy, security and safety. Please forgive me if I do not provide sufficient or comprehensive detail on specific measures for the policies.
(Vision and comprehensive policies for the rebirth of the economy)
Aiming to recover the real growth rate of the Japanese economy in FY1999 to around 0.5%, we have made active efforts in cooperation with the Diet to surmount the financial crisis and economic recession with recourse to measures in all areas of fiscal affairs, tax systems, finance and legal schemes. The efficacy of these various policies has begun to permeate through into the economy, and while the economy has not yet got out of a severe situation, activities continue to improve moderately. It is of paramount importance that we steer the economy onto the path toward real recovery, build a new basis for 21st century development and ensure the rebirth of an economy for the future. That is why we will soon formulate measures for the rebirth of the Japanese economy with vision and prepare the second supplementary budget, both of which I will submit to this Session of the Diet.
The Economic Rebirth Package will be implemented on a scale of over 10 trillion yen, and will incorporate public investment, including infrastructure development for a 21st century-model society, on an appropriate scale so as not to let down the economy. The Package will stimulate the individual consumption and plant and equipment investment required to facilitate the shift from public to private-sector demand and allow us to further proceed with structural reform to ensure the basis for future development. In addition, we will also formulate budgetary policy with particular emphasis on financial measures for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as expanding the ceiling of special guarantees for loans provided to SMEs, as well as measures for housing loans and employment. The Economic Rebirth Package will be highly attractive, brimming with originality, hope and appeal. It will be a breathtaking new Package that responds to the expectations of the people of Japan and can be fully comprehended both in Japan and abroad. To this end, under an innovative and bold approach, irrespective of traditional concepts and plans and the frameworks of government ministries and agencies, I scrutinize the content of the measures and clarify to the best of my ability the individual objectives of each measure, the overall picture and the year in which the measures will be achieved to the extent that their results and effect will be made clear to the people of Japan.
I would like to christen this Session of the Diet the "SME Diet Session," and I will be asking the Diet to deliberate on bills that will allow us to undertake a radical review and extension of measures for SMEs. While the area of SMEs comprises at one end of the spectrum small enterprises which have their roots embedded in the local community, at the other end are venture businesses aiming for considerable achievements in new growth fields. There are also many future-oriented people looking to start up businesses. SMEs generate new employment and industry; indeed they are the fountainhead of Japan's economic dynamism, and it is with this in mind that I believe their promotion to be the key to the rebirth of the Japanese economy. We will formulate earnest assistance packages for those SMEs exerting ceaseless efforts to improve their business, while at the same time, deeming the creation of a society in which innumerable venture businesses and entrepreneurs come to the fore to be a pillar of utmost importance, I will build a policy structure that can accurately respond to the diverse needs of SMEs. The Economic Rebirth Package will therefore be formulated so as to contain accessible SME and venture business measures convenient for the entrepreneurs who need them.
The advancement of technological development is an indispensable element for ensuring the basis for future development, and requires the collective efforts of the public and private sectors. Given the need to respond to the issues faced by humanity and to forge new industries, we will work to create the nuclei from which will radiate a brighter future as we actively proceed with cooperative projects between industry, academia and government under the banner of "millennium Projects," focusing on bold technological innovations in three areas which are of vital importance to Japan: informatization, the aging society and the environment. These elements will be incorporated into the Economic Rebirth Package, and as I will also be asking the people of Japan for their widespread inputs and opinions, I hope that there will be many proactive proposals for innovative technological developments.
I also wish to reiterate that I will announce the specific details for fiscal structural reforms once the economy is on the path to real recovery.
(Achieving the security of society)
Creating a recycling socio-economy while at the same time maintaining an attractive, stable environment, and protecting the life and safety of each and every individual are both issues of paramount importance, the responsibility for which lies with political and administrative branches of the State.
The accident that occurred on 30 September at the nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, has caused a great deal of undue distress and inconvenience to both the residents in the nearby local communities and indeed the rest of the Japanese population. I assure you that we will continue to take all possible measures to provide health care for all the local residents and assist them in any other way, and will exert every effort to both accelerate our exhaustive investigations into the cause of the accident, and promptly establish and implement measures for preventing a reoccurrence of this type of accident. To this end, I will be submitting to this Session of the Diet bills for bolstering safety regulations and disaster prevention measures relating to nuclear energy.
Since this summer, we have witnessed heavy rains and typhoons throughout the nation. I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the deceased and to the bereaved families of the deceased, and to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the disaster victims. We will exert every effort in the implementation of restoration measures and will work with further resolve to strengthen our measures for responding to natural disasters.
The activities of Aum Shinrikyo continue to give rise to insecurity among local residents throughout Japan. Out of deep concern toward this issue, and with the Aum Shinrikyo in mind, I will be submitting to this Session of the Diet a regulatory bill for groups which have committed acts of indiscriminate mass murder. We will further endeavor to provide an appropriate response to the issue by coupling this legislation with a scheduled legislation aiming to provide relief to victims, the bill of which is expected to be submitted by Diet members.
Both the public and private sectors have united in their efforts to seek out comprehensive means of responding to the Y2K problem, and I believe that we are fully prepared to ensure that major confusion does not arise. Although rest assured, we are continuing to proceed with all avenues of approach. I do hope, however, that the people of Japan will bear in mind what we announced today and will make all necessary arrangements in advance.
(Building a society for the future endowed with safety and vitality)
In order to fashion our society for the future into one of vitality in which all of our people can rest assured despite the aging of our society and the dwindling birth rate, it is extremely important to advance the structural reform of the social security system so that the system will operate with stability.
Above all, from the perspective of alleviating the excessive burdens of the pension system on future generations and vowing to provide sound allowances, I submitted a bill to the last Session of the Diet for a review of the pension system as a whole. We are currently working with the utmost determination toward the earliest possible approval of the bill to ensure that public confidence in the pension system does not waver.
In light of the need for society as a whole to support the care for the aged, a major factor of insecurity among senior citizens, I assure you that we are making every preparation toward the nursing care insurance with the goal for implementation from April 2000. We will also address appropriately measures for facilitating the implementation of the system such as the reduction of the burdens on the aged and the provision of financial assistance, being based on discussions engaged in among the ruling parties.
We will soon be hailing the arrival of the new millennium. Japan has the honor of hosting next year's G8 Summit in Kyushu and Okinawa in the milestone year 2000, and I am intent on transmitting a powerful message from the Summit enabling us to embrace the conviction that the 21st century will be a happier era for humanity and the Earth. We are presently working for the thorough ongoing preparations for the Summit in close cooperation with local governments.
With the understanding and cooperation of Okinawa Prefecture, the Cabinet will channel all its efforts into addressing the resolution of the various issues being faced by Okinawa, in which United States facilities and areas are concentrated.
Japan is also exerting utmost efforts toward the commencement of a new round of comprehensive negotiations in the World Trade Organization to begin from 2000.
I have always upheld the belief that our nation must be an abundant one with great virtue, by which I mean a nation that possesses economic wealth, while at the same time retaining its nobility and virtue. In the Policy Speech I made at the beginning of the year, which was grounded on this precept, I emphasized that I would move forward with national administration under my concept of the "Five Bridges." Moreover, under our basic policy of "dialogue and action" I have engaged in dialogue with councils of learned individuals and the public and swiftly and boldly implemented policies that reflect the outcome of such dialogue. As a result we are seeing more positive trends in the Japanese economy, steadily advancing administrative reform, one of the most important issues at present, and will soon be submitting to this Session of the Diet related bills for the scheduled implementation of the reform of central ministries and agencies. As part of the diplomatic efforts I have undertaken as Prime Minister, I have enthusiastically visited the United States -- with whom we have a strong alliance underpinned by the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements -- the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea and various European countries, as well as inviting a number of leaders from countries around the world to Japan. I have worked to build cooperative relations with countries based upon solidifying relationships of trust with their leaders, and continue to concentrate every ounce of effort toward resolving the various issues surrounding North Korea.
It is people who form the foundations of a nation. And it is education that serves as the cornerstone to a nation's plans in the centuries to come. That is why will address the issue of education as a top priority focus here before the dawn of the new century.
When I look back on the changes that have taken place over the course of this year, I strongly believe my comment on the need for "constructive optimism endowed with firm resolve" was in no way mistaken. Japan is faced with a great number of urgent tasks, such as the rebirth of the economy and security measures, toward whose implementation and realization we must promptly focus all our energies. Other issues require us to take a more long-term, foresighted approach. Shall we not therefore work together to create a society full of hope for a brighter tomorrow where we can have unshakable belief in future developments? I believe the answer is clear.
I humbly ask for the support and cooperation of the people of Japan and the members of the Diet.