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Abe Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.31 (May 31, 2007) ============================================================

"Hello, this is Shinzo Abe" -- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Shinzo AbeProfile Japanese

A Trustworthy Pension System

Hello, this is Shinzo Abe.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Toshikatsu Matsuoka has passed away. I am deeply saddened by the loss.

Minister Matsuoka was a member of my Cabinet for eight months, during which time he worked vigorously for the administration of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. He leaves behind a number of remarkable achievements. It was Minister Matsuoka who opened the way for exports of Japanese rice to China, and in the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on agriculture he showed his enormous capability for action and his tenacious negotiating skills in the way he dealt with other countries. Minister Matsuoka applied himself to his work with the burning desire to build up the nation's agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, and to bring prosperity to agricultural communities.

I pray that the soul of Minister Matsuoka will rest in peace, and I offer my sincerest condolences to his bereaved family.

In my position at the helm of the Cabinet, I now reaffirm the solemnity of the responsibility entrusted to me. At the same time, I am determined to overcome this profound grief and ensure the Cabinet works as one to the fullest of its abilities in conducting the affairs of the state.

I am keenly aware that there are a great many people who feel anxious over the problems surrounding the nation's pension records.

People are saying, "I made all my pension contributions dutifully and with all sincerity, and yet now I find I cannot get my full pension." Such an outrageous situation is totally unacceptable.

My Cabinet will ensure that absolutely no one loses out on their pension payments.

In the past, there were cases in which one person had multiple pension numbers for reasons such as changing jobs, moving or getting married. Then in 1997, a system of basic pension numbers was introduced under which just one number is assigned to each person.

To implement the new system, the Government began the work of sorting through and consolidating 300 million pension numbers that had been issued under the old system for 100 million pension contributors. Soon after introduction of the new system, there were still 200 million numbers to be dealt with. Since then, the work of consolidating them one by one has progressed, and there are now 50 million numbers left. The Government will conduct a thorough check of these remaining numbers and will complete its work of matching numbers with contributors' listed names within a year.

Some pensioners must be very worried now that they may not be receiving the full pension to which they are entitled because of having changed jobs or moved in the past. I will ensure that those pensioners receive top priority as the Government conducts its investigation, and that the Government contacts without delay those people who may be receiving less than the full pension they are owed.

A Pension Benefits Bulletin Regular Notification Service has been started to let people who are due to receive pensions know the pension contributions they have made so far and the details of their payment history. This information is sent out to persons aged 58 and 35, and the system will be expanded from December to include persons aged 45. From April of next year, everyone, regardless of age, will receive a yearly estimate of the pension they can expect to receive in the future.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week telephone consultation service will be put in place for people who are anxious to clear up their anxieties over their pensions as soon as possible, including those who will receive pensions in the future.

Some people have certainly made their pension contributions but may have not kept their old receipts. There are also those who are unhappy about an inflexible, by-the-book response by the Social Insurance Agency to their inquiries. I fully understand why these people are dissatisfied.

In order to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, a third-party organization will be established to evaluate people's circumstances on an individual basis. I will see to it that the circumstances of each and every person are taken into consideration from the perspective of a third party under the new system. I will also make sure that every pension in question is paid in full once the legitimacy of a claim is confirmed.

The current law provides a limitation of five years, after which claims for unpaid pensions cannot be made. However, everyone has the natural right to receive pension payments in line with the contributions they have made. The ruling parties have submitted a bill to ensure that even pensions dating back more than five years can be received. I will strive to pass this bill during the current session of the Diet.

At the same time, we cannot overlook the grave responsibility of the Social Insurance Agency in causing problems of this nature.

The problems go beyond the pension records. There have also been various other cases of misconduct in the Social Insurance Agency. The pension system is in place to collect money from the people, save it, and then redistribute it; the system is built on the trust of the people. I feel overwhelming indignation that this trust has been eroded by the mismanagement of the Social Insurance Agency.

The current organization simply cannot continue as a government agency. I will take decisive action to ensure that bills that the Government submitted to the Diet to resolutely eliminate the Social Insurance Agency and divide it into six sections will pass without fail in the current session. I will see to it that the new organization provides a pension service that looks at things from the viewpoint of the citizens who make their pension contributions, rather than becoming an organization that just assumes the Government will take care of everything.

It is only natural that people who make their contributions must receive their pensions. I commit myself to restoring the pension system to its original premise, and will work to the fullest to create a system that we can all rely on.

[What's New in Government Internet TV]

- Prime Minister's Week in Review (May 14 to 20, 2007)

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- Party Leaders' Debate at the Diet (May 30, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe presented his plan to complete the identification process within a year to address the issue of 50 million pension numbers for whom the contributors are unknown.

- Global Warming Prevention Headquarters (May 29, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe expressed his intention to launch a national campaign with the motto of "1 person, 1 day, 1 kg" for reducing greenhouse gases.

- Meeting of the Innovation 25 Strategy Council (May 25, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe said, "I am committed to Innovation 25 as we perform the tasks ahead, such as technological innovation and renovation of the social system."

- Prime Minister Delivers Speech at the Dinner for the International Conference on "The Future of Asia" (May 24, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe appealed for the need to "create a new framework which moves beyond Kyoto Protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction"

- Gathering of People Providing Assistance for the Self-Reliance of Disabled Persons (May 24, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe enjoyed looking at pictures and pottery works and talking with participants over a lunch of bread, salad and soup.

- Japan-Philippines Summit Meeting (May 23, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe said, "Based on the Joint Statement I have signed with President Arroyo, I would like to further develop our relations as partners for comprehensive cooperation."

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General Editor: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Chief Editor: Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hiroshige Seko
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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