21 September 2000
On 14 September, along with the leaders of the New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, I inspected the damage wreaked upon the islands of Miyakejima, Kozushima and Niijima, and offered encouragement to all those engaged in rehabilitation work on the islands. I would like to offer a prayer for those who have passed away as a result of the volcanic activity of Mount Usu and Miyakejima, the seismic activity in the surrounding areas, and also the torrential rains concentrated in the Tokai region. I also pay my heartfelt respects to those whose lives have been affected and inconvenienced by the damage caused. Having determined recently to utilize the contingencies reserve fund, the Government of Japan will exert every effort, including addressing such issues in the supplementary budget, to enhance its surveillance activities, provide support for the lives of evacuees, and take rehabilitation and reconstruction measures. Crisis management is of primary importance in the administration of the state, and, wavering not even for a moment, I shall devote my heart and soul to its undertaking.
There remain but three months to run until the 21st century. I would like to take a moment to contemplate once again what it means for us to be living and active at the turn of the new century.
A 21st century filled with peace and happiness will not emerge before us by chance. It will be realized by those of us who have lived in the 20th century exerting efforts on a daily basis toward the new century. We must exercise responsibility and play a role in building an giridescent bridgeh from the 20th century to the 21st century.
At the last Extraordinary Session of the Diet I stated that there was gno time for rest in politics.h This summer I have strived with the utmost daily efforts in all aspects of Japanese politics, economy and society to set the gears of the 21st century steadily in motion.
As a result, with some areas still under examination, we have elaborated a specific direction for building a new Japanese society through greconstruction on the offensive.h
I wish to make this final Diet Session of the 20th century a key session in laying the foundations for the grebirth of Japanh in the 21st century. It is incumbent upon us to kick off the 21st century embracing a secure vision for the future.
As Chair of the recently held Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, I put together the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society, and through discussions with the other G8 leaders, we shared the recognition of the huge potentials IT offers. Furthermore, during my recent visit to South Asian countries I saw for myself that India was striving energetically in the cultivation of IT technicians. Today, IT has become a global issue. Japan too must respond swiftly to the issue toward changes in its industrial and social structures.
I recently established an office within the Cabinet Secretariat comprised of experts from both the public and private sectors to advance swiftly the IT revolution. To address the legislative side, at this Diet Session I shall submit a bill on the Basic Law on Information Technology (IT Basic Law), along with a bill to amend the laws which now make obligatory the issuance of written documentation in private sector transactions and other matters. The bill on the IT Basic Law provides a basic framework for consolidating clear national strategies and implementing necessary measures in a unified, prompt and well-focused manner. We must work on its development as soon as possible. Furthermore, gearing toward next yearfs Ordinary Session of the Diet, I shall step up work on the formulation of bills necessary for the full-fledged promotion of the IT revolution in order to develop basic rules for the information society, such as new rules adapted to the nature of e-commerce, and those for the protection of privacy.
I shall also promptly formulate a national IT strategy for realizing a gJapanese IT society.h The gJapanese IT societyh toward which we should aim is a society in which all people can share information and knowledge on the basis of digital information, and freely exchange that information. As such, providing the basic foundation for our society will be high-speed Internet connectivity, through which enormous volumes of digital information-not only text, but also sound, image and even economic information-can be exchanged rapidly and cheaply.
Thus far the Internet has developed mainly through the use of existing telephone lines. However the global Internet society rests upon all people being able to share vast quantities of digital information, not confined to text, at a low cost. To ensure that this happens, setting firm annual targets, I shall work to develop high-speed Internet connectivity and promote more inexpensive and convenient Internet services on the basis of private sector initiative. Within five years I shall make Japan a nation that stands at the forefront of information and communications.
Sharing information, such as by promptly disclosing statistics and the state of implementation of measures relating to IT, is also vital in positioning the realization of an IT society as a national challenge. We must also undertake a sweeping review of competition policy.
I shall boldly address the diverse range of issues we face, including the early realization of e-government, the computerization of school education and the development of systems compatible with the integration of communications and broadcasting, on the basis of discussion in the IT Strategy Council. We shall also aim to provide a telling international contribution to the development of the Internet through research and development of state-of-the-art Internet technologies and active participation in resolving global Internet issues in such areas as IP version 6 (IPv6).
Guiding the IT revolution to success also hinges upon each and every individual taking a leading role in the net, imparting knowledge and devising new mechanisms. In the economic measures to be formulated in the near future I shall position the active promotion of the IT revolution as the primary pillar, provide high-speed Internet connectivity to schools and public facilities, and launch the largest ever national movement to ensure that people nationwide are capable of using the Internet. I shall advance bold measures to help people acquire the basic skills to this end. I shall also exert my utmost efforts to provide public Internet access points through which the general public can freely access the Internet.
I shall aim to promote the development of the content of information that can afford convenience and enjoyment to the Japanese people. And Internet Fair 2001 Japan will act as a springboard for this. By unequivocally establishing three pillars-the facilities, or the hardware, the skills, or the software, and the content-I shall build a society in which everyone can simply access the Internet at home and experience its enjoyment and usability for themselves, and, through creating new businesses and stimulating existing industries, I shall aim to achieve an economy and society of greater quality.
The growth of our children, who will underpin Japan in the 21st century, as gdecent, robust and honorable citizensh endowed with creativity will serve as a cornerstone of ga nation of beauty rich in spirit.h To this end I shall pursue drastic educational reforms.
Based upon its intensive discussion regarding a whole spectrum of educational issues, including the fostering of Japanese people imbued with humanity and creativity, the development of diverse, open schools for a new era, the formulation of basic plans for promoting education as well as the review of the Fundamental Law on Education, the National Commission on Educational Reform will publish its interim report tomorrow. Following this, a final report will be compiled by the end of this year, taking into account a wide range of public opinion through the hosting of public hearings and other channels. In response to this, I shall implement far-reaching reforms, including implementation of smaller sized classes, measures to address teachers with insufficient aptitude, measures to tackle class disruption and bullying, enhancement of home education, promotion of volunteer activities and hands-on experience, and activation of boards of education.
To this end, hailing next yearfs Ordinary Session of the Diet as the gDiet Session for Educational Reform,h I shall submit a series of bills relating to educational reform addressing immediate challenges, including amendments to laws pertaining to school education, restructuring of classes at public schools, and standards for fixed numbers of teachers. In addition, I shall continue to strive actively to promote IT education and university reforms.
I shall resolutely address the review of the Fundamental Law on Education, reaching an outcome based upon the final report of the National Commission on Educational Reform and through intensifying wide-ranging national discussion in the Central Council for Education and other fora.
There is an old saying that reads: gWe learn to exercise moderation in childhood, learn to handle our emotions in youth, learn what is right in middle age, and learn to be good advisers in old age.h Making education better is not about childrenfs issues alone, but about building a structure in which all sectors of society can lead better lives. It is my sincere desire that we can further nationwide discussion on education in order to ensure the prosperity of our society as a whole.
In order to further extend ghealthy, long livesh that can be lived independently, I shall advance comprehensive measures to deal with cancer and myocardial infarction-two major causes of death in the prime of life-and apoplexy, dementia and broken bones-conditions that require nursing care-based on the Medical Frontier Strategy. For those who require nursing care, I shall improve the nursing insurance that came into effect this April, and provide assistance toward leading self-serving lives.
It is essential to restructure securely the social security system, which provides a safety net for peoplefs livelihoods, so as to dispel peoplefs concerns over their future. The bills to amend the Health Insurance Law and other legislation that I shall submit to this Diet are indispensable for creating a stable medical insurance system and a system for providing medical care that can adapt to shifts in the pattern of diseases, and constitute the first step toward the drastic reform of the medical system in the 21st century.
We must advance a horizontal, comprehensive review of the whole spectrum of lifelong social security, including pensions, medical care, nursing and employment, from the standpoint of those who actually cover the costs to receive the benefits. Social security, like education, is a system that requires long-term designing, and we need to base fully such planning on preceding circumstances. At the same time, I believe that in undertaking this review, there is a need to focus on gthe principle of self-responsibility,h that is to prepare yourself to the maximum possible extent for risks, and in this sense, Japanfs social security should be based upon a social insurance system. I further believe that it is crucial, in terms of tax burden, including the burden on the national treasury, to identify to the Japanese people and widely examine gpolicy needsh and gclear concepts of public burden in system planning.h As a prerequisite to this, it is essential to pay full consideration to gequality among generationsh and work to review extensively and make more efficient the contents of benefits and system administration, including ensuring consistency between systems, and diversification of services through guser choice and utilization of private sector dynamism,h in order to enable the young generation to have a definitive vision for the future. The Council of Experts on Modalities for the Social Security Structure is currently discussing the way social security as whole in Japan should be, and I shall strive to gather together promptly their thoughts, stimulate wide-ranging nationwide discussion, and in the 21st century, advance steady reforms in the whole of social security under a clearly defined philosophy.
Overcoming the problem of declining birthrates will be a key challenge in the 21st century for fostering generations responsible for the future who are endowed with humanity, and for creating a dynamic society. I shall take comprehensive steps in such areas as employment, education and housing, in order to overcome this problem in a way that nurtures the hope and responsibility to raise children and that strikes the right balance between work and childrearing, while attaching importance to the sensitive emotions of children. Such steps will particularly include: improving the diversity and quality of childcare services that are available whenever necessary, including evenings and for short periods, and enhancing consultation and support systems such as local child support centers. In this context, I shall also exert efforts to achieve a gender-equal society.
The swiftly and boldly implemented economic measures introduced since the former Obuchi Cabinet have brought about a moderate improvement of the Japanese economy since hitting the bottom in the spring last year. The recently announced 1st Preliminary Estimates of National Expenditure for the April-June period reveals that the real GDP had registered an annual growth rate of 4.2 percent. Corporate profits were also markedly up on last year. Such results are testament to the fact that the government was accurate in its assessment that although moderately, economic activities are improving.
But we still cannot say unequivocally that economic recovery is assured. The employment situation remains severe, consumption is broadly flat, and the number of business failures is high.
Against this background, we must carry through grebuilding on the defensiveh to recover the Japanese economy to a normal position, and execute a grebuilding on the offensiveh to put the economy on the path to stable and sustainable growth.
The Japanese economy is indeed in the midst of sloughing its old skin and shifting to a new structure. Now is a crucial moment for the economy. Pivoting my efforts on the economic recovery, and with future development in my sights, I shall push forward economic policy with hardened resolve.
The primary objective of the economic measures to be formulated in the near future is to shift the Japanese economy away from quantitative expansion to a world brimming with dreams, peace of mind and individuality. This objective is underpinned by four pillars: active promotion of the IT revolution; the response to environmental issues, such as the creation of a recycling society; measures to address an aging society with declining birthrates; and the development of urban infrastructure, such as the development of towns that are convenient and comfortable to live in.
In order to further strengthen the trend toward a self-sustained economic recovery and implement these economic measures, and while maintaining a careful watch over regional developments, I have taken the decision to prepare a supplementary budget with a total amount in the upper three trillion yen bracket relating to the economic measures. In preparing the supplementary budget, I am determined to exert the utmost effort to curtail the additional issuance of Japanese Government bonds by reviewing expenditures and revenues, utilizing the carried-over surpluses from FY1999, and other means.
We recently reached an agreement as to the review of public works among the three ruling parties. This is a matter of great importance and I intend to conduct a fundamental review as a sort of Public Works Big Bang to see to it that our public works projects truly serve the people in a manner that befits the coming 21st century. In so doing I am committed to taking a hard look at the situation and am determined that any projects that should be cancelled, will indeed be cancelled. In that process we will aim for clarification of the benefits to be received and the burdens to be borne, the establishment of a project evaluation system and a review of tendering and contracting systems. We will thoroughly concentrate our efforts on the four priority areas identified in the Japan Rebirth Plan and we will seek to ensure that greater coordination among the various public works projects is implemented.
Furthermore, in order to increase the peoplefs trust in public works projects, we will submit to the current Session of the Diet the bill of a law to promote appropriate tendering and contracting of public works projects, which aims to enhance the transparency of tendering and contracting procedures of public works and promote competition.
It is imperative that we carry through fiscal structural reform. However, one cannot consider this issues as separate from modalities for our nationfs economy and society in the 21st century. Japan currently faces a difficult fiscal situation. However, if we take steps hurriedly to rebuild our fiscal structure as a priority issue before our economy gets on the path toward self-sustaining recovery, we run the risk of endangering the economic recovery of our nation. That is why we will be flexible in taking fiscal stimulation measures and will make fiscal injections in a limited range in order to restore the economy to a normal state. At the same time, we must remember that now is the time to begin preparations to construct a fiscal structure that is sustainable in the future as well. We will ensure fiscal transparency, enhance efficiency and make qualitative improvements, while making the economic recovery a more solid one, and then I will tackle the fiscal structural reform, maintaining a broad perspective encompassing the structure of our tax system, the way in which we provide for social security and even the relations between the central government and local governments.
In advancing economic structural reform, it is imperative that we do all that we can to support small and medium enterprises by helping them make the transition to the IT age and ensuring a smooth supply of capital. Given that small and medium enterprises continue to face financial difficulties, and considering that the expiry date for the system of special guarantees for loans to small and medium enterprises is at the end of March 2001, I intend to see to it that sufficient measures are taken, including the expansion of the ordinary loan guarantee system and measures regarding the social safety net to address such contingencies as large-scale bankruptcies and disasters.
A sound financial system is essential for economic rebirth. Indeed, it is vital that we solve the problem of bad debt, stabilize our financial sector and restore it to a sound state as soon as possible in order to regain confidence in the Japanese financial system from both Japan and abroad. In order to stabilize the Japanese financial system the Government has conducted impartial and strict inspection and monitoring of financial institutions and has quickly dealt with insolvent financial institutions based on the Financial Reconstruction Law and has increased the capitalization of financial institutions through injections of public capital based on the Financial Functions Early Strengthening Law. As a result, steady progress is being made in the disposal of bad debt and in reorganizing financial institutions and it is clear that there is a marked increase in the level of the overall stability of the Japanese financial system when compared with a certain point in the past. With the lifting of restrictions on payoffs scheduled for the end of March 2002, I intend to continue to make my utmost efforts to rebuild the Japanese financial system as an even sounder one that will engender the trust of depositors and the market.
Furthermore, in addressing the issue of global warming, I will aim to have the Kyoto Protocol enter into force by the year 2002 and will do my utmost toward the success of the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6). An all-out effort should be made to build domestic systems to enable ourselves to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6%. Moreover, aiming to realize a nation founded on the creativity of science and technology, I will sincerely strive for a focused advancement of research and development in advanced technology sectors and on the creation of the necessary environment to underpin such research. I will also continue to make efforts to ensure new development in agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors and in villages engaging in agriculture, forestry and fishing.
With the 21st century just before us, it is our duty to renovate those structures that are out of line with the needs of the times into models befitting the new era.
We are approaching the reorganization of central government ministries and agencies that will take effect next January. I intend to do my utmost to ensure that this historic reform is truly effective in creating an administrative system that befits our nation in the 21st century. Furthermore, I believe that it is important to incorporate the knowledge and insight of the private sector into the administrative process at both the central and local government levels. In order to actively make use of the specialized knowledge and experience of private-sector individuals, the Government will submit to the current session of the Diet the bill of a law to establish a fixed-term employment system.
In order to further advance administrative reform, the Government will take steady steps toward enhancing access to administrative information and lowering the ceilings on personnel numbers at government agencies, while at the same time, next March we will compile a new Three-year Program for the Advancement of Regulatory Reforms encompassing such sectors as IT, medical care and welfare, employment and education. Parallel to this, we will actively advance decentralization bearing in mind the modalities for fundamental local public entities and review public corporations, and the government and the ruling parties will work closely together to compile an outline of administrative reform by the end of this year. Furthermore, in order to realize efficient and high-level, people-oriented government services, I will ensure the smooth introduction of the policy evaluation system in January of next year and make considerations toward enacting relevant legislation, with a view to submitting a bill to the next ordinary session of the Diet.
Regarding reform of our judicial system as well, I hope to see broad and active nationwide debate on this important foundation of our nationfs society and economy in the 21st century, and I intend to respond actively, based on the discussions within the Judicial Reform Council.
In order to restore the trust of the people in our police force in light of a series of deplorable incidents involving police authorities, I intend to devote my utmost efforts to effect a sweeping reform of the police force by submitting a bill to amend the Police Law to the current session of the Diet with a view to ensuring transparency in police administration, and a sincere response by the police to the requests and opinions of the people and to developing the foundation for flexible and powerful police activities that can meet the changes of the times.
Furthermore, regarding amendment of the Juvenile Law, discussion is currently underway among the ruling parties, from the viewpoint of promoting the sound development of children and preventing vicious crimes being perpetrated by youths, concerning measures including lowering the age at which offenders are subject to criminal prosecution, and of making the fact finding proceedings more appropriate. The Government will take appropriate measures based upon the outcomes of these discussions.
In order to increase the trust of the people of our nation in our political system, we must spare no effort to establish political ethics as quickly as possible. While this is naturally something that each and every politician must embrace as a personal conviction, in order to establish further political ethics, I hope to see thorough discussion in the current session of the Diet toward a conclusion regarding the establishment of legal measures governing so-called gprofiteering through mediation.h
Similarly, I expect the current Session of the Diet to make considerations on electoral system reform for the members of the House of Councilors and on the question of granting to foreign nationals with permanent resident status the right to vote in local elections.
As to the recent series of incidents involving medical institutions, there are concerns regarding the degree to which medical professionals value the importance of life and there is some perception of slack professional ethics on the part of medical institutions. In response to this serious situation, we called an urgent meeting of people in charge of hospitals affiliated with universities and other institutions providing advanced medical services in order to ensure a thorough safety management system. Beyond this, I intend to convene a conference composed of a wide range of experts to consider and implement effective measures to improve the situation.
In developing a foreign policy based on a global perspective, the Japan-US relationship, which is the cornerstone of Japanfs foreign policy, is increasingly important. In particular, it is important to continue to strive to enhance the credibility of the Japan-US Security Arrangements, which contribute not only to the security of Japan, but to the peace and stability of the overall Asia-Pacific region. Recently the Special Measures Agreement on Host Nation Support was signed and I look forward to seeing the conclusion of the Agreement affirmed as promptly as possible after due deliberation in the Diet.
Moreover, while continuing to promote the development of Okinawa, with a view to decreasing the burden borne by the people of Okinawa Prefecture, I will make my utmost efforts to steadily implement the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) Final Report. In particular, regarding the relocation and return of Futenma Air Station, the Government will work toward concrete proposals at the earliest time possible in such fora as the Replacement Facility Council organized with the Government of Okinawa Prefecture and local municipalities.
From 3-5 September President Vladimir V. Putin of the Russian Federation visited Japan and we held full-scale negotiations on a peace treaty and had frank talks on cooperation in economic areas and a range of international issues. Regarding the peace treaty, while frankly expressing our respective thoughts, we agreed to continue negotiations based on all the agreements that have been reached between our two nations in order to conclude a peace treaty through the solution of the issue of where the four islands belong. Furthermore, we agreed on a basic direction for economic areas and for Japan-Russian cooperation in the international arena. Building from the relations of trust that were forged during this visit between President Putin and myself, I intend to continue to make my utmost effort toward the conclusion of a peace treaty with the prospect of my visit to the Russian Federation.
Asian countries have overcome the currency and financial crisis, have rediscovered their former dynamism and are expected to achieve further development. On the other hand, Asia still has many issues to overcome. We have to take measures to overcome the challenges in both political and economic fields, and we have to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in the field of security as well. To ensure that the 21st century will indeed be gAsiafs Century,h I intend to help build the foundation for gpeace and stabilityh in Asia, to support ggrowth and progressh in Asia and to gexpand and deepenh relations between Japan and Asia.
With regard to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, positive developments have been continuing since the North-South Summit Meeting in June and we are seeing a movement toward a relaxation in tension. While maintaining close cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea and looking ahead to the dawn of a new era in Northeast Asia, the Government will make its utmost efforts to make this trend a certain one. Advances have also been achieved in relations between Japan and North Korea with the Foreign Ministerial Meeting between Japan and North Korea in July, followed by the Tenth Round of Normalization Talks in late August. The Government will remain steadfast in its approach to the normalization talks, and will also make the utmost efforts to resolve humanitarian issues and concerns over security issues. President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea will visit Japan tomorrow and I look forward to further enhancing our relations of trust as we engage in frank and close discussions on such new developments in the situation on the Korean Peninsula and intend to have a very fruitful exchange of views on achieving even greater development and promoting broader exchanges in Japan-Republic of Korea relations, which have seen great advances in recent years.
Japanfs relations with the Peoplefs Republic of China are important for the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and it is important to frankly discuss our respective concerns and move forward from a broad perspective. Premier Zhu Rongji is expected to visit Japan in October and I intend to make an effort to further develop our partnership of friendship and cooperation towards the 21st century.
In developing Japanfs foreign policy for the Asia-Pacific region I intend to be proactive in Japanfs approach to regional and interregional cooperation toward the realization of an open, free and prosperous Asia. In October the Third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM3) will be held in the Republic of Korea, in November the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leadersf Meeting will take place in Brunei Darussalam and the ASEAN+3 (Japan, the Peoplefs Republic of China and the Republic of Korea) Summit Meeting will be held in Singapore. Through these meetings, I intend to further the momentum of interregional cooperation, to enhance regional cooperation, and to contribute toward the creation of a framework of multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Politics is charged with the noble mission of protecting the lives and assets of the people. In order to fulfill this mission and ensure proper defense planning, I will make considerations toward drafting a new Defense Program to take effect after the Mid-term Defense Program expires at the end of this fiscal year. Moreover, I consider emergency legislation to be necessary for the Self-Defense Forces, under civilian control, to ensure the safety of the state and of the people. While fully recognizing the view recently expressed by the ruling parties that called upon the Government to initiate considerations aimed at enacting the relevant legislation, I intend to consider how the Government will address this matter.
Still, let us not forget that there is no guarantee of any strong wind to blow us forward with full sails billowing into the world of the 21st century. Indeed, the speed of the IT revolution is rapidly making national borders inconsequential as political and economic issues spread ever more rapidly among nations and the gap between the haves and have nots continues to expand. Japan is determined to face these challenges head on in accordance with the G8 Okinawa Communique adopted at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit.
Today, as I bear forward the gheavy ballh of the administration of government that I have been entrusted with, I recall the youth I spent playing rugby. I am determined to join my arms together with the people in a scrum and tackle the challenges that we face as we forge our way downfield toward the goal of the rebirth of Japan.
The goal of ensuring a grebirth of Japanh must be shared among all of our people. I call out to everyone to discuss this goal and to bring together our collective wisdom and focus the sum total of our efforts on achieving this important objective.
I ask for the support and cooperation of the people of Japan and the members of the Diet.