Press Conference by Prime Minister Kishida

October 14, 2021
[Provisional translation]

[Opening statement]

Today, I dissolved the House of Representatives. As for what lies ahead, public notice is scheduled to be given on the 19th and the general election is slated for the 31st. We will take all possible measures to ensure that no COVID-19 countermeasures are neglected during the election campaign period.

Since immediately after I assumed office as prime minister, the Government has been working together at full speed to put our major policies into concrete form. The term of office for members of the House of Representatives expires on October 21. Through this general election to be held upon dissolution of the House, we must determine the composition of the House of Representatives at the earliest possible time and accelerate our work to put our major policies into concrete form as we also of course take COVID-19 and economic countermeasures. I want the Japanese people to choose who, or which political party, is capable of building a society in which each individual citizen can live a vibrant life full of abundance.

We are engaging in efforts to tackle COVID-19 with a sense of speed. Currently the state of infections is at a steady, low level. By making vaccines, screening, and pharmaceutical treatments widely available, we have succeeded in creating a series of steps for prevention and discovery through to early treatment that the public has been hoping for. Now that the state of infections has reached a low level, it is critically important for us to advance this series of steps further while simultaneously making robust preparations against COVID-19, assuming the worst situation. We are currently preparing, through joint efforts by the national and prefectural governments, to announce our overall image of our measures to combat COVID-19, so that the public can feel at ease. Tomorrow, we will announce our framework, which we will be certain to incorporate into that overall image and carry out.

First of all, we will set into place a medical treatment structure capable of countering a virus roughly twice as infectious as the virus this past summer. Even if by some chance infections spread at a higher rate than that, exhaustive preparations, such as securing hospital beds for urgent needs, will be made under the responsibility of the national government. Towards that end, we will forge ahead with transitioning some beds at public hospitals to be reserved for exclusive use of COVID-19 patients. In addition, we will make the number of so-called “phantom hospital beds” -- beds registered as reserved for COVID-19 patients, but which in fact were not used to accept COVID-19 patients ? easily noticeable and raise the hospital bed occupancy rate during a wave of infections to over 80 percent. We will also reinforce our system of readiness towards patients recuperating at home or in lodging facilities. We will launch the third dose of vaccinations in December and aim to have orally administered pharmaceutical treatments enter into practical application within the calendar year. We will also expand free-of-charge screenings with a view to restoring our daily lives. Furthermore, in order to ensure a stable supply of both vaccines and therapeutic medicines, we will incorporate support for their domestic development and production into our economic measures.

With the battle against COVID-19 approaching the two-year mark, the activities of our business operators and the daily lives of our citizens have suffered. After the election, I am determined to swiftly take comprehensive and bold economic measures. These will include assistance for those facing various challenges as a result of COVID-19. We will provide so-called “push-mode” benefits to non-regular employees, households raising children, and others having a hard time, under which people can receive these benefits even without completing the troublesome applications.

We will provide a subsidy on par with last year’s Sustainability Subsidy (Subsidy Program for Sustaining Businesses) to business operators impacted by COVID-19, regardless of location or business field, in proportion to the size of the business, to enable them to see a way through for continuing their businesses until March. Alongside this, to protect the employment of non-regular employees and others, we will extend until next March the special measures related to Employment Adjustment Subsidies, which have raised the subsidy rate.

One impact of COVID-19 has been a fall in the price of rice. Establishing a special quota of 150,000 tons, we will provide support for the storage and trade of the private sector distribution inventory, thereby stabilizing supply and demand in the near term.

The impacts of COVID-19 are also deepening the problems of child poverty, solitude and isolation, and issues related to single motherhood. The day before yesterday, I visited a Kodomo Shokudo in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, where I had personal and direct discussions with people and listened to the real state of affairs on site. We will expand financial support for non-profit organizations (NPOs) that engage with and assist people facing hardships. We will provide rice from the Government’s stockpile to Kodomo Shokudo free of charge. We will also prepare to launch post-COVID-19 economic and social activities.

In order to revitalize consumption, within our economic measures we will also provide comprehensive support for companies’ initiatives to rebuild their businesses that will reap the benefits of that consumption. Moreover, as for the “Go To Travel” initiative and other measures aimed at sparking consumption, we will proceed with preparations for relaunching the scheme, after conducting a review of systems to ensure greater safety and peace of mind through the use of vaccination certificates and proof of negative test results.

After carrying out all possible measures for tackling COVID-19 and boosting the economy, we must build a new, post-COVID-19 economy and society. Who can carve out a new future after COVID-19? I want you, my fellow citizens, to make that choice.

The Kishida administration aspires to achieve both growth and distribution. As the opposition parties say, growth will not be possible if we merely talk about distribution, as the economic “pie” to be distributed will itself also disappear. We must not make this same mistake twice. I will draw out the vitality of the private sector to the greatest possible extent, and we will bring about vigorous growth by giving rise to industries and companies that will triumph in international competition.

When doing so, if we simply leave everything to the markets or to competition, the fruits of growth will reach only a certain portion of the public. By having the private and public sectors both playing a role, we will advance warm-hearted reforms and realize a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution in which the fruits of growth circulate widely to individual citizens. For that reason, I will establish a Council for New Form of Capitalism Realization in which I will serve as the chair and Minister Yamagiwa will serve as the vice-chair. Leading figures from the entire range of industries will participate and draw up a grand design of a new capitalism. Tomorrow I will decide in concrete detail the members, the framework we will use to examine the issues, and the specific items for the council to take up, and I will inform you of those points.

In addition, in order to cultivate this new era, it is critically important for us to advance digital reforms, regulatory reforms, and administrative reforms integrally, and I will establish a Digital Extraordinary Administrative Advisory Committee to pursue that end. Both of these bodies will propose and then work to materialize daring yet concrete proposals that go beyond the frameworks of our conventional approaches. In the field of science and technology, in order to get rid of the feeling of being caught in an impasse that besets Japan, we will incorporate into our economic countermeasures a concrete shape for a university fund of 10 trillion yen. We will ask our universities to separate the role of research from that of management and have them cultivate environments in which outstanding young researchers are able to devote themselves entirely to their research.

The advance into Japan of a Taiwanese company that practically monopolizes the manufacturing of state-of-the-art semiconductors was announced today. I have high hopes that this will enhance the essentialness and the autonomy of Japan’s semiconductor industry and contribute substantially to our economic security. We will also incorporate into our economic measures support for the large-scale private sector investment at a scale of 1 trillion yen in total by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and other such investments.

In addition, it is our areas outside our major urban centers that are of the utmost importance. Our new form of capitalism will get underway beginning with our local regions. We will forge ahead with our Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation, which will resolve depopulation, aging populations, and other issues faced by our regions by implementing digital transformation. Towards that end, we will develop digital infrastructure that includes 5G, data centers, and so on, while also supporting the transition to smart technology in industries, such as automated deliveries and automation in agriculture. We will provide comprehensive support for small- and medium-sized enterprises and for the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries, which bolster regional economies, and we will develop regional transportation infrastructure.

I want the public to make their choice with regard to our distribution strategy as well. The Kishida administration will not leave distribution entirely to the market, nor will the Government entirely finance it. Instead, it will be through the public and private sectors each fulfilling their roles that we will bring affluence to the citizens.

From now, in addition to increasing employment opportunities, we will increase the wages paid to each person. To make this a reality, I have instructed the Government and the ruling coalition to reinforce the tax system in ways that promote wage increases. We will make use of the tax system to provide support for companies that have raised the wages of their employees. When we implement this change, we will also boldly raise the deductions ceiling. Bolstered by these support measures, I will take the lead in asking industrial circles to raise wages.

Insofar as I am asking the private sector to raise wages, the Government too must do the same. At the Tokyo Metropolitan hospital I visited the other day, I heard from the nurses the earnest voices of people working there in the field. I was struck at the sight of people properly carrying out their duties each day despite wavering between worry at becoming infected and their sense of mission. We will raise the incomes of people working on the front lines in nursing, caregiving, childcare, and other fields so that they can work in even a slightly more forward-looking way. Towards that end I will lead discussions and deliver results in concrete terms by the end of the calendar year. We will work to build a sustainable social security system oriented to all generations in which all people mutually support each other, notably by bringing into being universal workers’ insurance that is neutral with regard to ways of working, including non-regular employment and freelancing.

In addition to these, we will incorporate into our economic measures preparation for disasters, which are becoming increasingly serious. Based on our Five-year Acc elerated Measures package, we will deftly work to prevent and reduce disasters, develop infrastructure and enhance and accelerate national resilience.

Finally I will address diplomacy and security. The international situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. First, I want the citizens to decide who is able to protect the peace and safety of Japan and the Japanese people and to whom we should entrust this nation’s diplomacy and security as we encounter this severe international situation. We cannot entrust this nation to the various opposition parties, with whom we have differing orientations regarding even our fundamental view of the Constitution and our fundamental view of security such as the roles of the Japan-US Security Arrangements and the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The most important thing of all is having candid relationships of trust with other leaders. Since immediately after assuming office as prime minister I have held telephone meetings with our Quad partners, starting with U.S. President Biden, then Australian Prime Minister Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Modi, as well as with UK Prime Minister Johnson. With all of these leaders I have confirmed that we will cooperate closely towards realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific. I have moreover held telephone summits with President Xi Jinping of China and President Putin of Russia, during which I have said what must be said regarding the situation surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the outstanding issue of the conclusion of a peace treaty, and other matters. In this way I have taken the first step towards engagement regarding these pending issues. Also, in order to respond to the severe security environment, I have given instructions to revise the National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines, and Mid-Term Defense Program and we have kicked off discussions among the relevant ministers.

The security environment surrounding Japan is changing dramatically. In light of this, I consider the experience and courage of the leader shouldering the weight of our diplomacy to be critically important in fully protecting the safe and tranquil daily lives of our citizens. I would like the public to entrust this area to me, KISHIDA Fumio. Having served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs for four years and eight months, a post-war record, I have forged deep relations of trust with leaders around the world with whom I can talk on a first-name basis. I am ready to mobilize my experience and strengths to defend the peace and security of this nation to the very end.  

If I can receive a popular mandate through this general election to resolutely execute our COVID-19 measures and our economic policies, I will deliver as my very highest priority comprehensive and bold economic measures at a scale of tens of trillions of yen. On August 26, I declared my candidacy in the battle to assume the responsibility of taking the helm of this country as the prime minister. There is not the slightest hesitancy or retreat in my thinking, nor in the policies I have set forth, for delivering economic measures to the citizens and the business operators who have worked to tackle COVID-19 and who have suffered damages as a result of COVID-19, for creating a new form of capitalism in which all citizens can enjoy the fruits of growth equally, for protecting the peace and security of Japan without fail, and for advancing diplomacy and security that contributes to the world. The crucial thing is to firmly set the order of priorities and to implement them steadily, first one and then the next.

This election is the election to choose our future. I ask all the citizens to render their judgment. Our era is now at a fork in the road. How we proceed will decide Japan’s future. Together with you, my fellow citizens, I wish to build and open up an exciting future in which all people of this country, notably the young generation who will carry the next era forward, can take on various challenges through unfettered thinking, and new technologies and innovations are implemented throughout society, and a Japan where people live with their minds at ease and the fruits of growth are returned properly to the people. A new era, together with you, the citizens.

With that, I will end my opening statement.  Thank you for listening.

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