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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by the Prime Minister

December 4, 2020

[Provisional Translation]
Opening Statement

The extraordinary session of the Diet will end tomorrow. That is the first extraordinary session that the Suga Cabinet has engaged in.

With the number of new cases of novel coronavirus infections and the number of patients with severe symptoms now at an all-time high, the situation continues to require extreme vigilance. The availability of hospital beds for patients with severe symptoms has already been tight since last week, and we are responding with a strong sense of urgency. I express my deep respect as well as my heartfelt gratitude for the devoted efforts being made by the medical professionals and nursing care facility personnel who continue to stand at the very front lines in the battle against the coronavirus.

As I have been saying, the Government’s greatest responsibility is to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the Japanese people. The Subcommittee on Novel Coronavirus Disease Control has pointed out dining as one of the situations where the risk of infection is high. We consider the shortening of hours of operation to be extremely important in dining facilities. As countermeasures taken intensively in a short timeframe, beginning last weekend, requests have been made to shorten business hours in various areas, and the Government will provide support thoroughly to all cooperating establishments. Regarding the Go To Eat campaign, we have requested measures such as suspending the issuance of new vouchers and placing limitations on the number of people dining together. For the Go To Travel campaign, we have temporarily suspended the campaign for trips to the cities of Sapporo and Osaka and called on people traveling from these areas, along with Tokyoites who are elderly or who have underlying conditions, to refrain from using the campaign.

We will provide the greatest possible support for coronavirus countermeasures taken by medical institutions and elderly care facilities, including compensasion for losses of revenue when securing available beds. Making use of our experience until now, we will further develop preparedness at public health centers that conduct screening and deal with infected patients, hotels serving as accommodations for patients with light symptoms, and beds for the treatment of severely ill patients. We have secured 1,200 medical specialists, double the number we have had until now, for dispatching to public health centers around the country.

During this Diet session, a bill was enacted to provide coronavirus vaccines free of charge. Multiple vaccine clinical trials have been moving forward both domestically and overseas, with some already reaching the final stage. While giving safety and effectiveness the highest priority, we are making all-out efforts for advance preparations so that those who are in need can be vaccinated immediately once vaccines are approved.

From now we will head into the year-end and then the New Year’s season. I once again ask the citizens, of course the elderly and also young people in particular, to thoroughly take basic measures to prevent infections, such as wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding the 3Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings), practices whose effectiveness have all been proven scientifically.

Early next week we will decide upon economic measures that will open up a new path for economic growth by maintaining employment, continuing businesses, and restoring the economy in order to protect people’s lives and livelihoods. Employment Adjustment Subsidies provide support of up to 15,000 yen per day, including to part-timers and non-regular employees, and we will allocate the budget necessary for this special extension of the program. Moreover, we will continue throughout the first half of 2021 the current arrangement of providing interest-free, no-collateral loans up to 40 million yen per business from the Japan Finance Corporation. As for the Emergency Small Funds for those who are in a difficult situation from a lack of cash on hand, approximately 500 billion yen has been utilized since March, with exemptions from repayment in cases where there has been an ongoing drop in income. These measures will also be extended. Further, as emergency allowances, next week we will take a decision to use contingency funds to provide 50,000 yen to each single-parent household with low income, with an additional 30,000 yen per child for the second child and beyond. We aim to provide this by the end of the year.

We will secure 1.5 trillion yen in funding for Extraordinary Regional Revitalization Grants in order for the Government to assist local governments with funds paid out to businesses that cooperate with requests for shortened business hours, and also assist them with their individual kinds of support extended to business owners and other efforts.
We intend for these measures to help businesses overcome the current severe situation, creating a foothold for economic recovery.

On top of that, what Japan needs is a source of economic growth in the post-coronavirus world. Going green and going digital will be the major pillar for this. Thanks to nearly eight years of Abenomics, the Japanese economy has emerged from its worst condition, creating a condition that is no longer deflationary and increasing the number of people employed despite a decrease in population, while reforms to tourism and agriculture have contributed substantially to local economies.

The 2050 carbon neutrality target, which I raised in my policy speech to the Diet, is one that Japan must achieve by all means in order to catch up to and then get one step ahead of the global current. Environmental measures no longer restrict economic growth. Rather, they are a means for Japanese companies to promote investments towards the future and enhance productivity while supporting reforms to the economy and society as a whole, producing tremendous growth. In order to shift our paradigm towards such a virtuous cycle between the environment and growth, the Government will take a major step forward in environmental investment with this series of economic measures.

We will establish a fund of 2 trillion yen, an unprecedented sum, and over the next decade we will provide continuing assistance to companies taking up the challenge of ambitious innovations. We will regard hydrogen, of which there is an inexhaustible supply, as a new energy source, and make a large-scale, low-cost hydrogen production device a reality. We will also develop hydrogen-powered airplanes and hydrogen-powered cargo ships. What is absolutely critical for electrification, which is the key to decarbonization, is storage batteries. We will develop low-cost storage batteries, which are necessary for the wide-spread use of electric vehicles and renewable energy. Through the use of what are known as carbon recycling technologies, even the carbon dioxide emitted will be reused as plastics or fuel.

Through the Government taking the lead and providing support for these initiatives, we will encourage private-sector investment and stimulate the use of 240 trillion yen of cash on hand and on deposit, consequently inviting into Japan environment-related investment capital, said to amount to 3 quadrillion yen, from around the world. By doing so, we will create employment and growth. Also, we will develop systems and regulations to spread the use of electric vehicles and the like to the greatest possible extent, aiming at eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

Regarding digital transformation, we will also resolve, at a stroke, the issues pointed out in the past.

In order to advance the penetration of My Number Social Security and Tax Number cards, for all those applying for the card by the end of the fiscal year, we will extend by half a year the deadline for using “My Number” reward points. The full-fledged use of My Number cards as a health insurance card will commence in March 2021. By integrating the cards with driver’s licenses over the next five years, we will make it possible to take lectures or submit documents online when it is time to renew the license. We will take these measures in a single stroke within the upcoming economic measures.

As for what is known as post-5G, which strengthens the functions of 5G, and also for the next-generation technology called 6G technology, the Government will spearhead research and development so that we are able to lead the world in “next technologies.” In our upcoming economic measures, we will secure funding at a scale in excess of roughly 1 trillion yen for these and other initiatives related to digital transformation.

We are now advancing at a rapid pitch our work aimed at next autumn’s inception of the agency in charge of digital transformation, which will serve as the control tower of digital transformation.  This agency will have powerful authority by consolidating jurisdictions over the budgets related to information systems of the Government and by being given a mandate to send recommendations or correction orders to other ministries and agencies. The agency will include roughly 100 highly skilled professionals from the private sector among its staff. We also intend to create a model in which staff can advance their careers through this interchange between the private and public sectors.

As novel coronavirus infections continue to occur, what is important now is a feeling of reassurance along with hope for the future. For the near term, we will secure a sufficient amount of contingency funds so that we are able to respond to anything that arises. Through these measures, we will ensure the people’s confidence regarding their daily lives and we will build a foundation for future growth.

From mid- to late November, I attended a series of summit meetings such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-related meetings, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the G20 summit (Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy). In these meetings, I actively conveyed to my counterparts that going green and going digital are the highest priorities for my administration.

At the same time, I repeatedly emphasized my determination to bring about a free and open Indo-Pacific rooted in fundamental values and the rule of law, amidst the state of international standards being substantially impacted by changes in the global power balance. We shared the view that Japan and relevant countries will advance cooperation in concrete terms.

I consider the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the UK, which was approved by the Diet during this extraordinary session, in particular, and also the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), signed by 15 nations last month including China and the Republic of Korea, to have been momentous outcomes. As we work towards the steady implementation and expansion of these agreements and also the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11), which Japan will chair in 2021, we aim for the further advancement of an economic zone based on free and fair rules.

In mid-November, I welcomed Prime Minister Morrison of Australia as the first foreign leader to visit Japan since my administration was inaugurated. Prime Minister Morrison and I confirmed our common objective of bringing about a free and open Indo-Pacific. On top of that, along with our cooperation in economic relations, we reached agreement in principle on the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement, which will raise our security and defense cooperation into a new dimension. We deepened our personal relationship of trust and made significant progress in advancing the special strategic partnership between Japan and Australia.

In addition, in my first telephone meeting with U.S. President-elect Biden, we confirmed the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to the Senkaku Islands, the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and cooperation towards a free and open Indo-Pacific, making this a highly meaningful exchange.

Throughout this series of summit-level diplomatic occasions, I also requested the cooperation of my counterparts in resolving the issue of abductions, which is among the most important issues for my administration, and many leaders expressed their understanding and intention to act in cooperation with Japan. The international situation is even harder to foresee than before because of factors such as national particularism and an inward-looking tendency that arose while responding to novel coronavirus infections. That is precisely why Japan places emphasis on multilateralism and is determined to lead the solidarity and concrete cooperation of the international community.

In addition, world leaders expressed their sympathy and support for my strong determination to hold the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next year as a symbol of humanity’s resilience and global unity in overcoming the novel coronavirus. I will continue to firmly assert Japan’s position to the international community by actively engaging in summit diplomacy, and I will continue to work on various diplomatic issues to the best of my ability.

In my policy speech to the Diet, I stated that regarding the reforms pledged until now, we will start from what we can do immediately and deliver results, enabling the people to experience the benefits in a tangible manner.

Regarding fertility treatments, we intend to begin covering fertility treatments through public health insurance beginning in the 2022 fiscal year, with male fertility treatments also eligible for coverage. Until that coverage begins, we will do away with the subsidy system’s income caps and double the maximum subsidy amount for the second round of treatment and after to 300,000 yen across the board, up to the sixth round. These same provisions will apply to the second child and beyond. We will include these in the upcoming supplementary budget so they can take effect early next year. We will also provide new support for examinations for recurrent miscarriage and infertility accompanying treatment for cancer.

Two years ago, I stated in a lecture that mobile phone charges can be reduced by 40 percent. While being awarded frequency bands, which are a public asset of the people, the three major mobile phone operators have maintained an oligopoly, surpassing 90 percent of the market share for many years, and generating an operating profit margin of 20% through mobile phone fees that are expensive compared to international standards and a non-transparent fee system. I have had such an awareness that these facts are far removed from what the people regard as common sense.

Recently one of the major mobile phone operators announced that it will realize a large data plan of 20 gigabytes for 2,980 yen, some 70 percent cheaper than it was two years ago, as part of its flagship brand lineup. I believe we have reached a turning point in our shift towards full-scale competition.

True reform will come from here on. I intend to take further action as necessary while confirming going forward if the fees shouldered by individuals have actually decreased and if there are any obstacles remaining, such as fees for switching over to sub-brands.

What is important for the Suga Cabinet is adapting to the speed of change and undertaking reforms from the people’s standpoint. First we will manage to overcome the novel coronavirus and make the economy recover. We will do everything in our power, as the Cabinet that works for the people.

This concludes my opening statement.


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