Home >  News >  The Prime Minister in Action >  July 2014 >  Japan Revitalization Forum Summer Conference 2014: A Strong Japan

The Prime Minister in Action

Japan Revitalization Forum Summer Conference 2014: A Strong Japan

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Photograph of the Prime Minister delivering an address

Photograph of the Prime Minister delivering an address

  • Photograph of the Prime Minister delivering an address
  • Photograph of the Prime Minister participating in a dialogue

Photograph of the Prime Minister participating in a dialogue

Photograph of the Prime Minister participating in a dialogue

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the Japan Revitalization Forum’s Summer Conference 2014: A Strong Japan, held in Kanagawa Prefecture.

At the Forum, the Prime Minister said,

“I believe that many ambitious young people from across the country have gathered here today. I can feel the passion you all have for creating a strong Japan. In the general election two years ago, I campaigned on the slogan of restoring Japan, and I revived the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. Since then, we have worked as one, placing the utmost priority on the economy. The reason I have focused on restoring a strong economy is of course because without a strong economy and economic growth, we cannot support the fiscal base needed for our important social security system. The cost of social security is growing every year, and only the wealth generated by the Japanese people can cover that cost. So we must generate growth. It is also thanks to everyone’s hard work, knowledge, and economic growth that we can cover education expenses. For the protection of Japan as well, we need to thoroughly secure funds to cover the cost of defense. The foundation for a brighter future for Japan lies exactly in a strong economy. Furthermore, in order to draw the world’s attention to Japan and increase Japan’s presence on the world stage as well, we must achieve a strong economy; an economy built on economic exchange.

But even beyond that, the reason I have focused on economic growth is because the greatest problem to have arisen over the 20 years of continued deflation is that the Japanese people lost their confidence. A sentiment akin to resignation began to pervade the hearts of the Japanese people; the idea that the era of the Japanese economy and Japanese growth is over, that economic growth is impossible because our population is declining, that Japan has too much debt to grow, or that there is no bright future for Japan. I will restore the confidence that Japan has lost. I will restore in the Japanese people the belief that if we work hard, we will be rewarded, and that if we work together, tomorrow will be better than today, and we will definitely lead better lives next year than we did this year. That is my true aim. I have launched the three arrows of Abenomics in rapid succession so as to restore the confidence of the Japanese people and to once again create a country that shines. So what has been the outcome of these efforts? In June of last year, we established a Growth Strategy, in which we took on the formidable task of initiating reforms that were once deemed impossible and breaking down vested interests. The Growth Strategy includes the full liberalization of the electricity retail market, which had been monopolized for approximately 60 years; reforms to create a regenerative medicine industry; and the abolishment of the production adjustment system for rice that has been in place for over 40 years, the so-called ‘gentan’ system.

As such, Japan continues to undergo a steady transformation, driven by the three arrows of Abenomics. Japan’s GDP growth rate has remained positive over the last six quarters. The ratio of job offers to job seekers has improved for 18 continuous months since the inauguration of the Abe administration, and is now at a level that it has not reached in 21 years and 11 months. In addition, this spring, many corporations resolved to increase wages. According to research by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO), monthly wages have risen over 2%. This rise of over 2% is a level of growth not seen in 15 years. Research shows that summer bonuses too are up 8.8% on average from last year. This puts them at the highest level in the past 30 years. Thanks to all of this, I believe the lull in consumption that followed the rise in consumption tax last April for the first time in 17 years will be only temporary. Supermarkets, department stores, and electronics stores are also seeing a trend toward recovery. Even capital investments, which had long stagnated, are starting to see full-fledged, positive movement.

We must strengthen the steadily emerging positive cycle of the economy to ensure that the results can be felt by all the small and medium-sized enterprises and people across the country. To that end, last month, I enhanced the Growth Strategy further. There is no end to the reforms of the Abe administration. I believe that I must not let up on the reins, because our reforms thus far will produce results, and they will signal the coming of a new society.

Two days ago, I took a test ride in a fuel cell car in Kitakyushu, an area that is aiming to pioneer a hydrogen energy society in which energy produced locally is consumed locally. This revolutionary car emits no carbon dioxide, and is environmentally-friendly. However, the commercialization of this vehicle is bound by what seems like a parade of regulations, including Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) regulations and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism (MLIT) regulations related to hydrogen tanks; METI regulations and fire prevention regulations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications related to the hydrogen stands that refuel the vehicle; and MLIT regulations related to community building. Last year, I said that I would revise all of these regulations in one fell swoop, and I conducted a 24 item policy reform. Now, finally, we are moving toward the commercialization of fuel cell cars. People all over the country will be able to enjoy the results of reform. This is the true essence of Abenomics. Furthermore, within the new Growth Strategy, we will boost Japan’s earning power through growth-oriented corporate tax reform and enhanced corporate governance. I will continue to break down vested interests with my drill of reform as well. I am carrying out the fundamental reform of agricultural cooperatives for the first time in 60 years; as well as the creation of a new system that will make it easy for doctors and patients to receive new drugs and treatments if they desire them; and the creation of a new system for working hours that will evaluate people not on the hours they work, but on results. We will develop every hitherto latent possibility. That is the key to Abenomics.

Among these possibilities, the absolute greatest lies in the vitalization of the regions, which overflow with individualism. I recognize that there are many here today who have yet to feel the effects of economic reform. Moreover, the regions face the pressing issues of rapidly declining populations and extreme aging. In each region, we must create places in which young people will work with vigor, with dreams and hopes for the future, in which they will want to raise their children and pass on fulfilling lifestyles to the next generation. We could create towns that were completely identical to Tokyo and Osaka, but they would not be able to compete with the real thing. Every region has its own authenticity. I am acting as the control tower to ensure that the entire Government works as one on this issue. I will establish a ‘Headquarters for Vitalizing Towns, People and Jobs’ and work on the vitalization of the regions.

The other day when I visited Tottori, I saw a business that has made good use of the ‘hometown tax system,’ which was established during my first administration, and created opportunities for many people to learn about the business by offering tax payers presents such as local beer or Daisen Ham. This has greatly increased sales. Items that are seen as nothing out of the ordinary in their home regions are thought of as local specialties when being sold to the rest of the country. I would like everyone in the country to know about these sorts of hometown local specialties, and the Government will prepare legislation to actively encourage initiatives at the national and regional levels.

I listened to the passionate feelings and concerns of members of venture businesses in Fukuoka City, which is a National Strategic Special Zone and provides support for business start-ups. In order for each region to attract young people, they must give birth to one new industry after another, and it must be possible for small and medium-sized enterprises to actively pursue new projects. Most of the loans to such enterprises are guaranteed with personal collateral. If these businesses fail once, the owners lose everything. This issue can be said to be destroying the drive of those in Japan who would otherwise work to start new businesses. And so it might also be said that the major factor preventing people from taking on a new endeavor after they fail is this personal collateral system. If a businessperson’s enterprise fails once, the foundations of their lifestyle are destroyed, making it very difficult to take on a new endeavor. But those who fail at running a business once can learn from their experiences and apply them to their next endeavor. This is why in the United States, for instance, it is easier for a businessperson to borrow money after they have failed. It is better for people to have failed once. I can say this as someone who once failed at being Prime Minister. There is no doubt in my mind about this.

In February of this year, we created new guidelines making it possible to receive funding without personal collateral if personal and corporate assets are separated and thoroughly managed. Already, the Japan Finance Corporation and Shoko Chukin Bank have started offering financing without the need for personal collateral based on these guidelines. I am confident that the abolition of the personal collateral custom will create vigorous regions. The greatest concern of venture enterprises is that they will not be able to grow their funds. Instead of competitive bids, we will create a system that prioritizes procurement through limited tender contracts for products and services provided by small to medium-sized companies founded in the previous ten years. We will quickly submit the first round of legislation related to regional vitalization to the extraordinary session of the Diet this autumn, and exert every effort for support with a sense of urgency.

Along with the regions, the greatest potential in Japanese society that has yet to be fully mobilized is the “Power of Women.” Even in such a large conference as we have today, even in such a big venue as this, there are few women present. The other day in Iizuka City I met the female owner of a chicken hatchery. Through exchanges with consumers, she has used women’s views and the internet to expand her business to encompass the development, sales and distribution of not only eggs, but also other egg-based products like a very delicious special pudding and ice cream. This is a model case of a value-added industry fostered through the integration of processing, retail, and other functions in the agricultural sector. I love having egg with my rice, and again, based on her perspective as a woman and a business leader, she came up with the idea of adding green onion to this. I added the green onion and tried the dish for myself, and it was delicious. This too seems like it could be an extremely popular idea. I could see firsthand how important the “Power of Women” is to the regional vitalization that I am promoting. I would like all women to take on new endeavors, regardless of age. In order to create environments that are easy for women to work in, we will fundamentally expand the number of daycare centers, and eliminate the word "childcare waiting list" from the Japanese vocabulary. Making use of elementary schools as after-school daycare centers, we will break down the ‘first-grade barrier.’ I would like Junior Chamber International Japan to lead the way in the creation of a society in which all women shine.

We will restore Japan. Another pillar of that is diplomacy and security. I believe that Japan can make a great contribution to peace and stability in the world by deepening cooperation with nations with whom we share the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law. The greatest mission of the Government is to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of its people under any circumstances. The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. It is no longer possible for any one nation to protect its own people only by itself. This month, on July 1, we made a Cabinet decision on the basic policy for the development of national security legislation. 

We will swiftly develop a legal system that will allow for seamless responses for any situation. This legislation will enhance our deterrence capabilities. In light of this, although the standards of the Constitution will remain as they have been up until now, we have made a Cabinet decision that includes partially permitting the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. For instance, if, among neighboring countries, there was a situation in which one country potentially launched ballistic missiles toward Japan, and if, as part of our missile defense in order to warn about such missiles, one of the AEGIS ships deployed by the United States in the Japan Sea were to try to exert its capacity to shoot down the missile with a Standard Missile 3 (SM3) or if one of these ships were to even try to thoroughly grasp the trajectory of such a missile, all of the AEGIS functions would need to be pointed toward the sky. With that being the case, these ships would be forced to turn their sights away from the area directly surrounding them. In order to provide cover for them, we would need another AEGIS ship, or a different high-capability ship. It would be best if it were another AEGIS ship. But the number of AEGIS ships belonging to the United States Seventh Fleet is limited. Even among available ships, for example if Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) AEGIS ships were nearby, if anti-surface missiles were fired from close range, the AEGIS ships looking toward the sky would not be able to detect them. The only ships that would be able to detect such missiles would be the nearby JDSF AEGIS ships. In such a situation, does it really make sense for the Japanese AEGIS ships not to shoot down such a missile, even though they are capable of doing so? If we did not shoot it down, in that instant, it goes without saying that the bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance would be put in danger. In addition, if a conflict occurred in a neighboring country, the JSDF ships would not be able to protect any U.S. ships transporting any Japanese people trying to escape from the conflict. We must ask ourselves if this really makes sense.

The basis for the Constitution of Japan is to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people. We therefore have a responsibility to thoroughly face the issue of whether it makes sense that we are unable to do so under the Constitution. Even if we say that this kind of situation only happens rarely, does that mean that we can simply ignore this issue? Does everyone consider that to be acceptable? No matter how I think of it, I cannot believe at all that the Constitution of Japan, created with the hope of giving happiness to the Japanese people, calls for the Government to relinquish its responsibility to protect the Japanese people if such a situation occurs. In light of this, we made the recent Cabinet decision. Some have criticized that we will become a country that wages war, or that gets drawn into wars. That is a criticism we have heard before. In 1960, when we revised the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the main opposition was that this revision would cause Japan to be drawn into wars. The opposing mass media threatened the Japanese people by saying over and over again that we would be drawn into war, and stirred up opposition. And 50 years later, what has happened? Were we drawn into war?

Some time ago, in April, President Obama visited Japan, and he announced that the territory under administration by Japan, including the Senkaku Islands, was subject to Article 5 of the Security Treaty with the United States. In other words, he announced that we would jointly protect this territory. I would assume that nearly all of the newspapers supported this announcement. Many members of the public too supported it. But I would like everyone to realize that if we had not revised Article 5 of the treaty in the past, this would not be possible today. In other words, is it not the case that because of that revision at that time in particular, because we have deterrent capabilities, and because we feel that we are being protected, we are able to support that announcement? I wonder why it is that the same newspapers that opposed the revision in the past supported that statement now. In order for us to continue to thoroughly protect the lives of the Japanese people, I intend to continue to work on this issue with courage.

As I draw my brief speech to a close today, I would like to introduce some remarks said by Prime Minister Abbott during my visit to Australia a while ago. At that time, I was given the opportunity to address the Australian Parliament, and I was the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to do so. After my speech ended, Prime Minister Abbott and I held a joint press conference. Addressing the press corps in an assured manner, Prime Minister Abbott said the following, “Japan should be judged on its actions today, not on its actions 70-odd years ago and Japan has been a first class international citizen in the post-war era.” This is how he evaluated Japan. We, the Japanese, should think of modern Japan with pride. It is Japan that can thoroughly protect freedom and democracy, that respects international law, and that again, is a country that protects basic human rights. We have continued to steadfastly follow the path of a peace-loving nation. As a part of that, Japan must do more and more to contribute to the world. In doing so, I am confident that Japan will be able to make this a better region, a peaceful region, and a secure region. Two years ago, some stated that ‘Japan was at dusk, or the land of the setting sun.’ We are starting to restore confidence in the fact that today, no such thing is occurring. I am confident that everyone gathered here today will develop further hopes for the future, and will without a doubt proceed with confidence to meet a new, rising sun. I hope you will join me to create a strong Japan. Let us work hard together. Thank you very much.”

Page Top

Related Link