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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

New Year’s Press Conference by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio

January 4, 2022

[Provisional Translation]
 
 
 [Opening statement]
 
I wish you all a very happy new year.
 
Just now I paid a visit to Ise Jingu. There, I prayed for us to overcome COVID-19 and for 2022 to be a wonderful year for all of the Japanese people.
 
In the Oriental zodiac, this is the year of the “water tiger,” which is said to have the meaning of “new movement beginning to take place and extending considerably.” Moreover, the Japanese character used to write the zodiac sign “tiger” has the meaning of “being careful or prudent.” In this way, it is said to incorporate the lesson that when making a big leap, there is a need to be more cautious or deliberate than usual.
 
I intend to make 2022 a year for boldly taking on challenges and carving out a new era. At the same time, I will take to heart not forgetting the humility of advancing matters with great care at times when being cautious is necessary.
 
An area requiring particular caution is our responses to COVID-19. Community-acquired infections by the Omicron strain are clearly cropping up in various locations. More than a month has passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) designated Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26 last year. During that time, the Government of Japan has adopted the most stringent border measures among the G7 countries in order to preclude, to the greatest possible extent, the virus from being brought into Japan. 
 
As a result, and through the efforts of many people involved and the cooperation of the public, we have minimized the inflow of the Omicron strain while ensuring time to prepare for an increase in the number of domestic cases of infection, including by starting to administer the third dose of vaccines, expanding testing conducted free of charge, securing a supply of orally administered therapeutics, and ensuring that our medical treatment structures are solidly in place.
 
Going forward, in preparation for the possibility of a worst-case scenario in which community-acquired infections spread rapidly, while maintaining the framework of our border measures, we will further reinforce our domestic framework of prevention, testing, and early treatment and begin preparations to shift the key points in our Omicron strain countermeasures into our domestic measures.
 
We will move forward with accelerating the schedule for administering the third vaccine dose to 31 million eligible healthcare workers and elderly persons. Local governments which already have clear prospects on this will accelerate administration to the elderly further, also making use of the 9 million unused vaccine doses nationwide already distributed. As for testing, we will continue to expand free testing in communities concerned about the spread of Omicron strain infections.
 
With regard to our medical treatment structures, the other day experts pointed out that in communities expected to see rapid increases in the number of cases of infection, it is critical to prepare in advance structures that maximize the effective use of communities’ medical resources by combining recuperation at home, recuperation at other accommodation facilities, and in-patient treatment, in accordance with each patient’s condition.
 
In adopting such structures, the important thing is to ensure that those recuperating at home or in other accommodation facilities feel reassured. What makes the situation significantly different from that of last summer is pharmaceutical treatments that are taken by mouth. For Merck’s orally administered therapeutic, nationwide more than 10,000 medical institutions and pharmacies have completed their registration and about 5,000 of them have already had the pharmaceuticals delivered. As for Pfizer's orally administered therapeutic, which has a different action mechanism, we will reach a final agreement on purchasing it within the month and we will aim to have it in practical application as early as possible within February.
 
For people recovering at home, we will adopt a treatment structure under which on the same or following day they are identified as testing positive, we will get in contact with them and begin health monitoring and treatment through home visits. We will also establish a system that, in addition to delivering a pulse oximeter by the day after treatment begins, can also provide orally administered therapeutics on the same day as, or the day following, diagnosis.
 
In areas where a rapid spread of infections has been confirmed, once this kind of recovery-at-home structure in which people feel reassured has been set up, we will review our current efforts by which, at the discretion of the local government, all persons testing positive receive in-patient treatment while all close contacts remain at lodging facilities, watchful for developing symptoms. We will make it possible to have a structure with preparations on all fronts, making use of both recovery at lodging facilities and at-home recovery, as appropriate for each patient’s condition, so as not to induce pressure on medical treatment facilities even in the unlikely event of a period with a rapid rise in the number of infections.
 
In the overview of our COVID-19-related efforts we compiled the other day, nationwide we have secured a total of about 33,000 medical institutions and other facilities providing health monitoring and medical examinations for those recuperating at home, about 64,000 lodging facilities for recuperating patients, representing a 40 percent increase, and about 37,000 hospital beds for treatment, an increase of 30 percent. We have already requested each local government to assess itself regarding its state of preparations and its systems for immediate readiness, in preparation for a potential sixth wave. We have also asked the medical associations, the pharmacist associations, and the nursing associations for cooperation so that coordination among at-home recuperation, recuperation at lodging facilities, and in-patient treatment goes smoothly.
 
We will make preparations to ensure that community medical treatment structures run dependably. And, through the national and local governments and the medical services community acting as one, we will mount proactive responses to any spread of infections in Japan. As we have now made sufficient preparations, I intend for us to overcome this state of affairs through the entire nation acting in cooperation, without fearing excessively of the Omicron strain. The Government will also make every possible effort towards that end. I ask once again that everyone in the public thoroughly carry out the basic preventive measures of wearing masks, washing their hands, gargling, and avoiding the three Cs [of closed spaces, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings].
 
As we press forward cautiously with these responses to COVID-19, we will at the same time take on bold challenges towards realizing a new form of capitalism. Under this “new form of capitalism,” rather than leaving everything to markets and competition, it is necessary to incorporate structures for rectifying market failures and negative externalities into capitalism from both the growth and distribution sides and maximize the advantages of capitalism. This is because simply leaving everything to the markets and competition tends to result in insufficient distribution and investment, which are absolutely essential for the next round of growth.
 
Taking investment in people and distribution to the middle class as an example, we find insufficient investment in wage increases, which lead to consumption, and in training and re-education, which cultivate enhanced human capital.
 
Looking at another example, investment towards the future and distribution to the next generation, we find inadequate investment in science and technology development and innovation, which are indispensable for future growth.
 
When we consider the case of investment and distribution to areas outside our major cities, we realize that we lack appropriate distribution to local areas which support people’s livelihoods and to small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) operators, who support communities, and we also lack sufficient investment in digital and other infrastructure in these local areas.
 
Next, consider investment towards tackling global-level challenges. We lack sufficient investment responding to global-level environmental issues that threaten the sustainability of humankind and global-level infectious diseases.
 
Globally, we are seeking economic and social reforms at a historic scale that would resolve these current situations. By building new kinds of public-private cooperation, Japan will be at the very forefront of global economic and social reforms.
 
Today, upon visiting Ise Jingu, my thoughts towards this kind of new form of capitalism intensified once more, and I renewed my determination with regard to three points in particular.
 
First, in order to bring about Japan’s second period in which many companies are founded, following upon the post-war corporate founding period, we will position 2022 as the first year for founding startups and, establishing a Five-Year Plan for Promoting Startups, work vigorously to get startups off the ground. Ise Jingu has linked history to new eras and new generations as it marked the passage of time by repeating every 20 years the construction of a new shrine and the transfer of the old to the new. Japanese capitalism also needs new players as it heads towards the future. With that as a goal, we will comprehensively undertake such efforts as enhancing the supply of risk money, including public investment, boldly opening up public procurement and other areas, providing comprehensive support for business expansion overseas, reviewing what the system for public offerings should entail, and so on. University students, young people, women, operators of SMEs and micro enterprises who aim at a “second founding,” people who want to make use of their experience at large corporations -- these are the leading players who will make the future. The public and private sectors will work together to provide comprehensive support to all those who take on this challenge.
 
Second, in order to make the Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation a reality, we will engage in “doubling the investment in digital infrastructure,” which will enterprisingly increase digital infrastructure investments in areas outside our major urban centers by both public and private sector entities. Digitalization is being implemented in various settings even here in Ise, an area with a long history that is rich in natural beauty. One example of this is the proactive introduction of digitalization and artificial intelligence in the souvenir shops and small restaurants found along the approach to the shrine to assist in understanding the flow of people and improving business efficiency. Through the power of digitalization, we will bring vitality to local areas while maintaining the appeal of the natural and cultural resources as well as the richness of daily life enjoyed by these areas. Moreover, we will realize “bottom-up” growth from these local areas to the nation as a whole. We will make 2022 the year in which we give concrete shape to the Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation. The digital infrastructure development necessary to make that a reality includes making optical fiber the standard for universal service, expanding 5G coverage nationwide, setting up data center hubs decentralized by region, and strengthening the foundations of our semiconductor industry. We will double public and private investment in digital infrastructure in areas such as these.
 
Third is our response to the issue of climate change. As last year drew to a close, I stated that at the beginning of 2022 I would talk about how we will move future discussions about climate change forward. We are currently in Ise, an internationally acclaimed site where we the Japanese are proud of, where there is an excellent harmony between nature and human activities. It is we in Japan who have woven our history through harmony with nature who must take the lead in responding to the climate change crisis. In order to face the issue of climate change squarely, rather than engage in discussions only from an energy supply side perspective, it is necessary to engage in broad discussions on how each business operator and each citizen can transition their way of doing their job, their personal strengths, and their lifestyle into a form that is carbon neutral. To do this, I myself attended the meetings where discussions are held on our clean energy strategy and I instructed the participants to make collective efforts among all relevant ministries, in order to reform our economy and society as a whole into a carbon neutral form. We will find a direction from among the large number of points at issue, including upgrading our power transmission and distribution infrastructure to make it suitable for an era with large-scale purchases of renewable energy; creating rules that make renewable energy the top priority; pursuing the integrated development of telecommunications and electric power infrastructure; redoubling our investments into storage batteries; strengthening our technological innovations and investments in non-carbon sources of electrical power, including, notably, renewable energies, and also hydrogen, small-scale nuclear power, and nuclear fusion; decarbonizing local areas; and what the transition to a carbon-neutral industrial structure and accompanying labor market reforms should look like. We will also make use of carbon pricing to the greatest possible extent. I will have the outcomes of these investigations input into the discussions held by the Council for New Form of Capitalism Realization.
 
Finally, I will say a few words regarding diplomacy and security. Steadfastly holding aloft the flag of ideals for the future, and keeping reality firmly in view, I will advance “realism diplomacy for a new era,” taking as its three pillars the importance of universal values, efforts to resolve global challenges, and efforts to resolutely and fully defend the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people.
 
In particular I will make 2022 a year for proactively advancing in-person summit diplomacy. First, with a view to raising cooperation among Japan, Australia, India, and the United States to greater heights towards the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific, I will deepen the personal relations of trust I enjoy with my counterparts at the summit level and engage in close and intimate exchanges of views with them. We have been making arrangements for in-person meetings at an early time between myself and President Biden of the United States and also Prime Minister Morrison of Australia, but in light of the state of the spread of COVID-19 infections both domestically and overseas and other considerations, I have decided not to make any visits overseas before the ordinary session of the Diet begins this month, in order to make all possible efforts to counter COVID-19 in Japan.
 
Here in Ise is also where the summit was held six years ago. A robust message was sent out by the G7 at the Ise-Shima Summit regarding issues that included the global economy. Furthermore, immediately after the summit concluded, President Obama made the first-ever visit to Hiroshima, site of the atomic bombing, by a sitting U.S. president. Regrettably, the Omicron strain has caused the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to be postponed, but as a prime minister with his roots in Hiroshima, where an atomic bomb was dropped, I will continue to devote myself to bringing about a world free of nuclear weapons.
 
At the beginning of my remarks, I referred briefly to the Oriental zodiac. In fact, I understand that there is one more meaning to the Japanese character for the zodiac sign “tiger,” namely, “for people who share the same intention to assist each other.” Whether it is responding to COVID-19, bringing about a new form of capitalism, or pursuing diplomacy and security, any one of those is fraught with difficult challenges. What is necessary in order to face up to these challenges vigorously is for many people linked by trust and sympathy to assist each other. For that reason, this year too I will advance carefully designed and tolerant politics as I listen earnestly to the voices of you the citizens.
 
As I end my remarks I would like to express my sincere wishes for 2022 to be a rewarding year for all of you, my fellow citizens.
 
I ask for your ongoing understanding and support again this year.
 
Thank you very much.

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