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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

New Year's Reflectionby Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I would like to extend my best wishes for the New Year to all the people of Japan.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident. The electrical supply and demand predicament. Torrential rains. And the historic appreciation of the yen and the European debt crisis. Having come through a tumultuous year in which we were visited in succession by trials properly called national crisis, we now begin a new year.

The year beginning today is the first year in which we set out towards Japan's rebirth. Seeking to become "Japan, a country of hope and pride," we must make this a year in which we are able to feel in tangible way that we have taken a definite step forward.

The Noda Cabinet, which was launched in September last year, has been working all this time to the utmost of its ability to resolve one by one the "issues facing us immediately."

The recent extraordinary session of the Diet saw the passage of the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, which exceeds 12 trillion yen, and its related legislation, thereby consolidating the system for dynamically pressing forward with reconstruction from the earthquake disaster. At the end of 2011, a "state of cold shutdown" was achieved in the reactors at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. From now, we will dramatically accelerate the reconstruction from the earthquake disaster and the rebirth of Fukushima, with the Reconstruction Agency, which will be newly established, as the command center.

We must move into full gear to tackle the challenging task of achieving in a compatible way both economic growth and the rebuilding of government finances, our 'homework assignment' since before the great earthquake. Our dwindling birthrate coupled with an aging population, a phenomenon proceeding at a rate unmatched anywhere in the world, is about to enter a critical stage. We must enhance the sustainability of the social security system as we fortify the safety net for the younger generation, which should be the side to provide support for the elderly.

Maintaining fiscal discipline and upholding our 'national credibility' are responsibilities entrusted by future generations upon those of us living today. At the same time, it is also a matter of urgency that we achieve "economic revitalization" that will overcome Japan's longstanding sluggishness and sustain prosperity into the future. We will carve out clear evidence of Japan's rebirth by firmly bringing concrete shape to the "comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems" as we also enact at an early time the budget for fiscal 2012 and the fourth supplementary budget of fiscal 2011.

I will of course make all-out efforts to tirelessly reduce expenditures and secure non-tax revenue. Alongside this, I will work to bring about at an early time salary reductions for national civil servants and also postal reform, while also expending more muscle tackling the issue of reducing the number of seats in the Diet.

This year, in which a number of leaders of major countries may change, the international environment surrounding Japan remains precarious. Protecting the safety of the Japanese people and ensuring their security are among the "most fundamental" of the fundamental roles played by the state and also its gravest responsibility. We will be absolutely unwavering in our duty to take all possible measures for crisis management of various types, paying careful attention to the situation in North Korea.

Once we have overcome these "issues facing us immediately," we will come to see the form of the "building of the nation" for which I am aiming. In the last years of the Tokugawa shogunate and in the Meiji era as Japan transitioned to a modern state, as well as in the era of (the movie) San-choume no Yuuhi ("Sunset on Third Street") — the late 1950's into the early 1960's — when Japan had risen up from burnt-out ruins after the war to achieve high economic growth, the entire country was overflowing with the hope that "tomorrow will be better than today." Recently, many are claiming that even such modest hopes have become hard to discern.

The multiple crises now facing us can also become opportunities that cast off the feeling encompassing Japan of being caught in an impasse, and lead to new development. I intend to work to recover a "Japan that has hope and pride," taking the reconstruction from the great earthquake disaster as an opportunity.

We will bring about mid- to long-term economic growth and the revival of a "large middle class," and give rise to reliable 'hope' that "tomorrow I will have greater abundance and happiness than today." We will also leave to future generations the 'pride' of being glad to have been born in Japan. These are the fundamental elements of the "building of the nation" towards which I am striving.

Naturally, the environment of the times of the high-growth period, in which the economy was in a state of ever-increasing expansion, is entirely different from that of the present, with its mature economy and society encompassing a shrinking birthrate and an aging population. Realizing a high rate of growth like that of the past is also not a simple matter. But that is exactly why it will be impossible for us to maintain our abundance going forward unless we continue to take up these challenges.

In the era in which the Asia-Pacific region become the world's growth center, it will be essential to make the greatest possible use of the benefits of globalization. Japan will stand at the fore internationally, pursuing various methods in order to realize the concept of the "Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific" (FTAAP).

Numerous frontiers extending across Japan are waiting for us to take them up as challenges. The issue of 'women,' whose strengths in society have yet to be sufficiently exerted. 'Agriculture,' 'renewable energies,' and 'medical care,' all holding the potential to become major growth industries of the 21st century. 'The sea,' a treasure-trove of marine resources. 'Space,' with its unlimited spatial expansion. By orchestrating the wisdom of industry, government, and academia and transforming these frontiers both at home and abroad from 'dreams' into 'reality,' I will make these a driving force for Japan's rebirth.

Rather than fear the "risks involved in taking on a challenge," we must fear the "risks involved in not doing anything." Taking on these mounting issues head on, one by one, we will achieve good results. This is also a historic mission to be carried out by the people of Japan, who live in the midst of adversity.

This mission of "Japan's rebirth" is something that I wish to consider, take on, and bring about together with the people of Japan. Renewing these "wishes" and this "determination," in sending this New Year's greeting, I extend my best wishes for the health and happiness of all.


Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan

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