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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

New Year’s Reflection by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

January 1, 2019

[Provisional Translation]

Happy new year to everyone.
I hope that you all welcomed this final new year of the Heisei era in a pleasant and restful way.
Last year, major natural disasters occurred all around Japan, one after the other. The government will continue its concerted efforts to advance reconstruction so that all those affected can, at the earliest possible time, recover their day-to-day lives with peace of mind.

The Heisei era dawned alongside the bubble economy, and afterward the economy plunged into a long period of deflation. Facing two lost decades, the arrival of an “employment ice age,” unprecedented natural disasters, and the claim that a society with a decreasing population cannot grow, Japan came to be encircled by a wall named resignation.
We took on the challenge of that wall.
Six years later, the economy is growing and the employment rate for young people is at a level surpassing all previous records. This past spring, the rate of wage increases at small- and medium-sized enterprises hit its highest level in 20 years. And we attained a 19-year peak in agricultural income produced.

The passion of people deeply devoted to their hometowns has resulted in disaster-affected areas now vigorously achieving reconstruction. Thanks to the traditions and culture refined by the locals and their wholehearted hospitality, the number of tourists from overseas has risen above the wall of 10 million visitors per year and now exceeds 30 million annually.

As the warm winds of economic recovery began to reach every corner of the nation, local tax revenues climbed to their highest level in history.
This year, we will make full-out efforts to overcome Japan’s greatest challenge, the wall of a declining birthrate alongside an aging population. From this autumn, we will begin making early childhood education free. We will invest boldly in children, who will shoulder our future, and dramatically transform our social security system into one that is oriented to all generations, so that each generation, from children to the working generation to the elderly, can enjoy peace of mind.
A society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged will start at full scale. In it, all people -- women and men, young and old, and those with disabilities or intractable illnesses -- will be able demonstrate their abilities to the fullest.
Young people’s interests have changed significantly in recent years, and more and more young people find settling down in Japan’s local regions to be highly appealing. I want to take advantage of this opportunity and make the flow of people to local communities more substantial. We will push forward in revitalizing these regions in ways that are brimming with future potential.
This year we will also take on immense challenges on the diplomatic front. As we encounter major turning points such as the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations, and the arrival of a new era in Japan-China relations, we will resolutely advance a total reassessment of Japan’s postwar diplomacy.
Japan holds the presidency of the G20, and we will welcome to Osaka President Donald Trump, President Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping, and other top leaders from around the world. This will truly be a year in which Japan shines on the world’s center stage.
We will meet with a major turning point in our history upon the succession to the Imperial Throne in May. As we head into the era that will follow Heisei, we will make this the first year of carving out Japan’s tomorrow. I am determined to stand at the fore as we do so.
Through a great amount of trust given to us by the Japanese people, we have advanced both domestic affairs and diplomacy, enabling us at long last to come this far. I am overcome by a sobering sense as we stand before the magnitude of the mission imparted upon us, namely, to take on our dwindling birthrate and aging society, regional vitalization, and the total reassessment of Japan’s postwar diplomacy.
Taking continuity as strength, and viewing our many efforts thus far and the trust from the public as tremendous sources of strength, I will commit myself entirely to tackling these challenges during the remainder of my time in office.

We will hand over to our children and our grandchildren a Japan full of hope that we are proud of. I pledge to devote myself in full to making this a reality.
In closing, I extend my most sincere wishes for 2019 to be a truly splendid year bringing joy and prosperity to one and all.
Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
January 1, 2019

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