Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 174 (February 3, 2005)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Japan has been enveloped by a strong cold air mass bearing down from the north, which has blanketed almost every region of the country in heavy snowfalls. With accumulation of close to three-meters recorded in the region affected by the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake, the people are enduring further hardships. I also worry that at the height of the entrance examination season some students may have been adversely affected by these snowfalls. I gave urgent instructions to the government yesterday to do everything in its power to streamline its efforts to deal with this inclement weather, and to ensure that various measures, including snow clearing, can be undertaken smoothly. I hope that nobody will allow the snow to get the better of them.
Two weeks have passed since the Diet session was convened. The session opened with my general policy speech to the members of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. Following this, the representatives of each political party posed their questions on the policies of the Koizumi Cabinet at the plenary sessions of both Houses of the Diet. These questions lasted for a day and a half in each House, making a three-day total for questions and answers. It is during these plenary sessions when basic policies are discussed.
With the conclusion of these discussions, deliberations kicked off on the supplementary budget for disaster reconstruction activities. The Budget Committees of both Houses each held meetings over two days, attended by all Cabinet ministers, which run from nine o'clock in the morning to noon and from one o'clock in the afternoon to five o'clock in the evening, with deliberations addressing each individual issue raised in question and answer format.
Through these deliberations, the supplementary budget including the budget allocated for disaster reconstruction activities amounting to 1.3618 trillion yen was unanimously approved by the Diet on February 1.
With the budget now appropriated, we must waste no time in moving to implement restoration of infrastructure and facilities, including roads, rail tracks, hospitals and schools. We must also dispose of waste created by the disaster and provide assistance for daily living to the people in the disaster-stricken region and to those small- and medium-sized corporations that have been adversely affected.
With the deliberations on the supplementary budget concluded, the Diet yesterday began deliberations on the budget for the 2005 fiscal year which starts in April. In the coming days, I expect to be attending meetings of the Budget Committee every day from nine o'clock in the morning to five o'clock in the evening.
It seems that there is no other world leader who spends so much time attending parliamentary debates. I have also been told that no US president has ever had to attend Congress and respond to questions posed by members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Given the importance of the Budget Committee where deliberations on the budget take place, I will work hard every day to respond to questions from Diet members of both the ruling side and the opposition throughout the deliberation process, answering them earnestly in a comprehensible manner to gain the understanding of the people of Japan.
The legislative election took place in Iraq on January 30. This election represents a significant step forward for the people of Iraq who are moving towards rebuilding their nation by their own hands. I would like to express my respect and admiration to the Iraqi Interim Government which carried through the election, and the people of Iraq themselves who made their way to the polling stations around the country, despite various difficulties, including terrorist acts that attempted to hinder the process.
Japan provided 40 million dollars in assistance for the implementation of the election, in addition to which assistance was provided in various other areas, including cooperation by Japanese embassy staff in monitoring the election in countries where overseas voting took place. I expect that a democratic and stable government in Iraq will be able to overcome the various difficulties the country faces, including ethnic and religious differences.
Today, February 3, is traditionally the end of winter in Japan, known as setsubun, the time for the bean-throwing festival. As a child I remember throwing beans as I shouted, "Out with devils, in with good fortune."
I sincerely hope that both inside and outside Japan all will be blessed with good fortune.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
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