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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Policy Speech by the Prime Minister to the 203rd Session of the Diet

October 28, 2020

[Provisional translation]
1.       Balancing novel coronavirus countermeasures and economic activities

I recently took office as the 99th Prime Minister of Japan. Here in the midst of a national crisis of the spread of novel coronavirus infections and the greatest economic slump in the postwar era, I have come to take on the very weighty responsibility of assuming the leadership of our nation. As I begin my remarks, I once again offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives to this infectious disease.

Only with the devoted efforts of so many people, notably healthcare professionals, public health center staff, and nursing care providers who continue standing on the front lines in our fight against the virus, we can continue to live our daily lives. I express my deep respect and my wholehearted appreciation to them.

The nationwide spread of infections since late June has turned downward. However, with the rate of decline in the number of newly confirmed positive cases slowing down, the situation still requires caution. We will do everything we can to prevent an explosive outbreak and thoroughly protect the lives and health of the public. On top of that, we will advance the recovery of our economy through the resumption of socioeconomic activities.

Going forward, in preparation for the seasonal influenza period in winter, we will secure screening capacity of community medical facilities for an average of 200,000 specimens per day. We will conduct screening for elderly people and people with underlying conditions, both of whom are at a high risk of developing severe symptoms, while prioritizing medical resources for patients with severe symptoms.

As for vaccines, while ensuring the safety and effectiveness as the highest priority, we will secure a sufficient amount to provide them to all citizens by the first half of 2021. We will provide the vaccine to everyone free of charge, with the elderly, those with underlying conditions, and medical practitioners receiving priority.

Since the change of administration eight years ago, we have consistently invested our efforts in reviving the economy. Moving forward, we will continue Abenomics and advance further reforms.

Before the new administration was inaugurated, the Japanese economy struggled with an extreme yen appreciation and low stock prices. At present, even in the midst of the spread of novel coronavirus, the market is showing stability. Despite a declining population, we have succeeded in increasing the number of people newly entering the workforce by four million. Land market values in local areas turned upward last year for the first time in 27 years.

Just as we achieved the best economy since the bubble economy burst, the novel coronavirus broke out. As the economic conditions remain severe, in order to first protect employment and ensure that businesses are able to sustain their operations, we will continue implementing initiatives such as the Sustainability Subsidy (Subsidy Program for Sustaining Businesses) of up to two million yen per each business, as well as interest-free, no-collateral loans up to 40 million yen per each.

In addition, we will support travel, eating out, theatrical plays and concerts, and events held at shopping arcades, with “Go To” campaigns. Until now, more than 25 million people in total have stayed overnight through the campaign, and yet among them, only a couple dozen participants have tested positive. We will run these campaigns appropriately, asking business owners to take thorough measures to prevent infections and users of these campaigns to be conscientious in avoiding the so-called “three Cs” (closed spaces, crowded places, close-contact settings).

We will continue to pay close attention to the impacts of the novel coronavirus on the economy and other economic trends both at home and abroad, while implementing necessary measures without hesitation.
2.       Realizing a digitalized society; supply chains

The pandemic has revealed various challenges, including delays in digitization of administrative services and private-sector practices as well as geographical concentration of supply chains. We will achieve bold regulatory reforms, including digital transformation, and build a new “with corona” and post-coronavirus society.

Citizens can complete all kinds of administrative procedures without going to a government office. Citizens living in rural areas can do the same work as those in large cities by teleworking. Citizens in local communities can receive medical care and education of the same quality as those in large cities. We will realize such a society.

Towards this end, we will advance digitization in government, getting rid of bureaucratic sectionalism across government ministries and agencies as well as local authorities. Over the next five years, we will unify and standardize the systems used by local authorities to enable the swift provision of government services regardless of the municipality in which you reside.

Regarding My Number Social Security and Tax Number cards, we aim to deliver the cards to almost everyone in the country within the next two and a half years and commence full-fledged use of My Number cards as health insurance cards in March of next year. We will also press forward in the digitization of driver’s licenses.

We will establish an agency in charge of digital transformation, which will serve as a control tower for vigorously carrying out these reforms. Towards its inception next year, we will swiftly move forward with preparations, getting rid of the vested interests of the ministries and agencies and incorporating the power of the private sector to a considerable degree.

Education lays the foundation of a nation. By pressing forward with making one digital device available for each elementary and junior high school student and expanding online education for all children, we will achieve a new form of learning that befits a digitalized society.

Furthermore, we will support new ways of working, including teleworking and “workations.” The practice of requiring physical seals on applications for administrative services and on other occasions prevents teleworking. We therefore intend to abolish all such practices in principle.

Vulnerabilities in supply chains have been pointed out, such as geographical concentration of the production locations of medical masks and protective gowns. We will make efforts to bring production back to Japan and diversify supply chains while advancing partial or full automation through digitalization and use of robotics technologies. By doing so, we will enhance our domestic production capacity in leading-edge industries in fields such as medical and health care.
3.           Realizing a green society

My administration will devote itself to the greatest possible extent to bring about a green society, while focusing on a virtuous cycle of the economy and the environment as a pillar of our growth strategy.

We hereby declare that by 2050 Japan will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, that is, to realize a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society.

Addressing climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth. We need to adjust our mindset to a paradigm shift that proactive climate change measures bring transformation of industrial structures as well as our economy and society, leading to dynamic economic growth.

The key here is revolutionary innovations, such as next-generation solar cells and carbon recycling. We will accelerate research and development aimed at realizing utilization of such technologies in society. We will make our utmost efforts in this area, such as establishing a forum for the national and local governments to conduct a review towards realizing a decarbonized society, while making green investment more common through the full mobilization of regulatory reforms and other policy measures. Also, we will advance green transformation more efficiently and effectively through digital transformation in fields related to the environment. We will lead the green industry globally and realize a virtuous cycle of the economy and the environment.

We will establish a stable supply of energy by thoroughly conserving energy and introducing renewable energies to the greatest possible extent, as well as by advancing our nuclear energy policy with the highest priority on safety. We will also drastically change our longstanding policies on coal-fired power generation.
4.      Creating vibrant communities

I was born into a farming family in the snow country of Akita. In Yokohama, where I had no connection to the local community and no blood relatives, I dove into the world of politics, literally starting from zero. Against this backdrop, and with persistent aspiration to create vibrant communities -- a view I have held throughout my career -- I created the “hometown tax” system after becoming Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. That system is now used at a level of approximately 500 billion yen annually.

Consumption in the four prefectures that make up the so-called Greater Tokyo area accounts for only 30 percent of the national total. Through tourism and agricultural reforms, among other efforts, we will create flows of people to areas outside Greater Tokyo, increase incomes in these areas, create vitality there, and through that, boost the Japanese economy. Since the change of administration, the number of inbound tourists has roughly quadrupled to 32 million per year while the value of exported agricultural products has doubled to 900 billion yen per year.

Japan’s agricultural products command wide popularity overseas, especially in Asia, and there is still ample room to increase our exports. Since the beginning of 2020, exports have suffered from the impacts of the novel coronavirus but we are seeing a recovery trend, as the latest number shows an 11 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Under the Headquarters for the Export of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Products and Food established within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in April, relevant ministries and agencies take a whole-of-government approach to negotiate with export destination countries. Issuance of export certificates has been also advanced expeditiously. As we head towards our targets of 2 trillion yen in exports in 2025 and 5 trillion yen in 2030, we will draw up our strategy for the near term by the end of the year and immediately put it into action. We will also steadily advance the ongoing agricultural reform and help boost growth in the local economies.

Even under the new normal, travel is part of our everyday lives. By the end of the year, we will compile a policy plan for rediscovering value that has been overlooked in Japan, creating at a stroke an environment to welcome visitors at each tourist spot, and restoring tourism demand for the near future.

In order to boost incomes in areas outside Greater Tokyo and revitalize consumption, we will work to achieve nation-wide increases in the minimum wage.
5.       Creating new flows of people

Through our fight against the novel coronavirus, we now see rural living in a different light and at the same time the environments surrounding industries and companies are changing dramatically. Given such a situation, we will create new flows of people from urban to rural areas and between companies, including to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups, opening up a path for future growth.

Competent human resources are found in every company, whether a major corporation or an SME. We will launch before the end of this year an initiative to utilize a sovereign wealth fund to introduce experienced professionals in major corporations to local SMEs or companies in between as managerial talent, starting with the banking sector.

For Japan, the need for interacting with people from overseas and incorporating overseas growth will not change, even in the post-coronavirus era.

Earlier this month we relaxed restrictions on business travelers and foreign students entering Japan from all over the world. We will raise our screening capacity at the point of entry into Japan to 20,000 screenings per day in November and resume global economic activities while thoroughly implementing preventive measures.

We will welcome finance-sector professionals from overseas, aiming to be a financial center for Asia, and even a global financial center. To this end, we will immediately review relevant aspects of the tax system, the provision of broader administrative services in English, and the relaxation of the requirements to qualify for status of residence.

Corporate governance reform is key in raising the value of Japanese companies. To spur further growth, we will promote appointments of women, non-Japanese, and mid-career professionals and advance reforms with a view to realizing workplaces with diversity and business management free of shackles.
6.       A social security system that provides peace of mind

It is our children who bear the future of Japan. We will squarely tackle the declining birthrate, a longstanding challenge for Japan, and make great strides forward.

Since the change of administration, we have prepared childcare arrangements for 720,000 children, resulting in the lowest figure since surveys began, of 12,000 children on the waiting list for childcare this year.

Aiming to eliminate the number of children who must wait to receive childcare arrangements, we intend to compile by the end of this year a plan which succeeds “Plan for Raising Children with Peace of Mind,” giving consideration to childcare arrangements in light of the rise in the number of women in the workforce and local resources for child rearing such as kindergartens and babysitters. In order to promote male participation in child rearing, we are calling on male national civil servants to take a minimum of one month of childcare leave beginning this fiscal year, and we will also promote childcare leave for male employees in the private sector.

“Even working hard as a double-income family, the salary of one of us vanishes because of the cost of fertility treatments.” This was what a couple once told me, looking very distressed.

Staying attentive to the sentiments of people such as this couple, we will swiftly make fertility treatments covered by public health insurance and eliminate income thresholds on eligibility. Until such insurance coverage becomes available, we will broadly expand the subsidy measure currently in place.

In order to prevent child abuse, we will strengthen our measures such as reinforcing child consultation centers and other municipal authorities. We will work to tackle child poverty, such as by providing assistance for single-parent families, through society-wide efforts.

Because of the novel coronavirus, the employment of women in particular is exposed to severe conditions. Yet even in this situation, we must not stop the positive momentum of women’s empowerment, which we have advanced until now. By the end of the year, we will compile a new Basic Plan for Gender Equality in working to create a society in which all women shine. We will also support job search activities for university students and high school students who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

In addition to advancing work-style reform, including equal pay for equal work, we will provide support to the “employment ice age” generation in accordance with individual circumstances in order to promote people of this generation working and participating in society.

We will create a society in which people with disabilities or intractable illnesses can demonstrate their individuality and be dynamically engaged, whether at work or in the community.

As we enter an era of 100-year life society, we will advance efforts to extend the healthy life expectancy through preventive and health-building measures, and we will press forward in ensuring sufficient nursing care staff and in increasing the productivity of nursing care facilities.

Alongside these efforts, we will rectify inefficiencies and inequality in various systems. We will work to realize the drug price revision every year and, with the aim of improving convenience through digitization, we will promote to allow online medical consultations on a permanent basis.

In 2022, the so-called Dankai Generation (Baby Boomer Generation) will become elderly aged 75 or older. Following the policies we have put in place so far, we will advance the review of medical care for the elderly. 

We will create a social security system in which people of all generations can enjoy peace of mind and hand it down to the next generation.
7.       Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake; disaster countermeasures

At Futaba Mirai Gakuen in Fukushima Prefecture, a school I visited in September, I listened to the students about their aspirations towards reconstruction and the efforts they are making to counter reputational damage. I strengthened my belief that growing up here are young people who will unlock their own futures and make their way out to the world.

I have an unwavering determination to lift the evacuation orders in the future for all of the difficult-to-return areas, even if it takes many years.

Without the reconstruction of Fukushima, there will be no reconstruction of Tohoku. And without the reconstruction of Tohoku, there will be no revival of Japan. We will undertake reconstruction and revival with an even greater sense of speed while being attentive to the feelings of those who have been affected by the disaster.

This summer, the torrential rains struck Kumamoto Prefecture and indeed the entire country. I pray for the repose of those who lost their precious lives due to the disaster. I also extend my sympathies to all those affected.

There is not a moment to spare in preparing for torrential rains and typhoons that cause tremendous damage every year. Until recently, we could not use dams for hydropower generation or for agricultural use for flood prevention, even though they too were dams. By getting rid of bureaucratic sectionalism in the relevant ministries and agencies and enabling the use of all dams for flood prevention, we have doubled the flood control water capacity. During the course of the torrential rains in July, we conducted advance releases of water into the Kiso River as a new endeavor, and mayors of towns located in the river basin sent me personal letters of gratitude. By combining improvements to embankments and retention basins, the refinement of heavy rain forecasts, and other efforts, we will protect lives from flooding of nearby rivers.

We will amend the Act Concerning Support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster Victims and expand the scope of those eligible to receive support grants. By doing so, those who suffer substantial damage to their residences due to natural disasters may lead stable lives as early as possible.

As floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters continue to occur one after another, disaster prevention, disaster mitigation, and building national resilience will continue to be major issues. We will advance the development of national land structures that is resistant to natural disasters, transcending the boundaries separating ministries and agencies, local authorities, and the public and private sectors, and building national resilience while closely monitoring the situation of disasters.
8.       Diplomacy and security

Since taking office as prime minister, I have made a series of telephone calls with the leaders of the G7, China, Russia, and so on. I am determined to further develop our relationship of trust and cooperation with the United States and other countries and conduct proactive diplomacy.

The abductions issue continues to be a top priority for the administration. I will make utmost efforts to realize the return home of all abductees at the earliest possible date. I am determined to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un without any conditions. Japan seeks to normalize its relation with North Korea, through comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.

Amid a severe security environment, the most consequential responsibility of the government is to protect and defend the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the people. With regard to an alternative to Aegis Ashore and the strengthening of deterrence, we will advance discussions based on the statement issued in September and compile policies to be undertaken.

The Japan-U.S. Alliance, the linchpin of Japan’s foreign policy and security, forms the foundation for peace, prosperity, and freedom of the Indo-Pacific region and the international community. We will make every effort to mitigate the impact of U.S. Forces on Okinawa, while maintaining the deterrence of the Alliance. To eliminate risks associated with Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma as quickly as possible, we will work to steadily advance its relocation to Henoko. We have made steady progress, including the return of a major portion of the Northern Training Area, which was the single largest land return since the reversion of Okinawa. We will continue to make our utmost efforts by listening to the views of the people in Okinawa.

Just recently, I visited Viet Nam and Indonesia. Japan will work together with countries with which we share fundamental values, including ASEAN countries, Australia, India, and European countries, and aim to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law.

A stable relationship with China is extremely important not only for the two countries, but also for the region and the international community. Japan will continue to claim what it should claim at a high level and work together with China to address common challenges.

We must put an end to the Northern Territories issue, without leaving it to the next generation. I intend to develop the overall relationship between Japan and Russia, including the conclusion of a peace treaty, through candid discussions at the summit level.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a highly important neighboring country. In order to restore sound Japan-ROK relations, we strongly urge the ROK, based on Japan's principled positions, to take appropriate actions.

With human security threatened by the novel coronavirus, it is imperative that international cooperation be strengthened. Japan will continue to extend assistance to developing countries in the health sector among others, while promoting multilateralism. We will proactively pursue reform of the United Nations, including that of the UN Security Council, as well as reforms of the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, among others.

Amidst the downturn of the global economy and the emergence of inward-looking tendencies, Japan will take the lead in expanding a free and fair economic zone as well as maintaining and strengthening the multilateral free trade system. We will conclude the Japan-UK Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, ensuring the continuity of doing business for Japanese companies. In addition, the government as a whole will work to address relevant issues accordingly from the standpoint of economic security.

In the summer of next year, I am determined to hold the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the virus. I will continue to spare no effort to bring about the Games that are safe and secure.

In the same vein, with regard to Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, we will overcome the novel coronavirus disease and share with the world what makes Japan so appealing.

9.       Conclusion

The Constitution lays out the foundation of our nation. It is the people, with whom sovereign power resides, who will ultimately decide the ideal form of the Constitution. At the Commissions on the Constitution, I expect that each party present its ideas, and the ruling and opposition parties hold constructive discussions, that would lead to a national debate.

Since the change of administration I have been involved in day-to-day issues in order to revive the economy and rebuild Japan’s foreign policy and security. I will continue to carry on with the reforms undertaken to date in various fields and, against this backdrop, make utmost efforts towards a new path of economic growth.

As for the reforms that we have pledged to date, such as reducing mobile phone charges, we will press forward with these reforms starting from what we can do immediately and deliver results, enabling the public to experience the benefits in a tangible manner.

Self-help, mutual help, and public help, as well as "kizuna (bonds)" are the vision of society I aspire for. Things we can do for ourselves, we should first try to do ourselves. Then we should assist each other within our families and communities. Beyond that, the government will provide protection with a safety net. I aim to create such kind of government that the public can entrust.

To this end, we will get rid of bureaucratic sectionalism, vested interests, and the notorious habit of following past precedents and make our utmost efforts to advance regulatory reforms. As “the Cabinet that works for the people,” we will materialize reforms and create a new era.

Thank you for your kind attention.


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