Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama

9 February 1995 Opening Statement I. To my fellow Japanese, More than three weeks have passed since the earthquake which resulted in the loss of more than 5,000 precious lives and left massive damage. Today I would like to state my own thoughts on the approach that has been taken straightaway in the aftermath of this disaster. I would also like to clarify for all my determination in this unprecedented trial, and in this I ask for the cooperation of all of the Japanese people. First of all, let me once again express my sincere and heartfelt condolences for the victims and their bereaved families. I also wish to express from my heart sympathy for all those who were injured and who must continue to live in shelters in a distressing situation. I am concerned that the people who suffered from this disaster now face severe cold and many great difficulties. Still, when I see them constantly maintaining their calm, helping each other and encouraging each other, I feel as if I, myself, have been saved by them. I am determined to forcefully promote recovery and reconstruction measures with all of the Cabinet's capacity, beginning with rescue and assistance measures, so that the lives of these people can return to normal at the earliest possible time. I am hopeful that all those who have suffered in this disaster will continue to strive to rebuild their lives and to reconstruct their city, together, in the days to come. Furthermore, I am truly humbled with gratitude for the work of the many people in the disaster areas, beginning with the prefectural and municipal employees, themselves victims of this disaster, who have been working night and day, as well as for the efforts by members of the police department, fire department, Self-Defense Forces and medical teams who have been struggling toward recovery, and furthermore by the many volunteers working there. You all have my heartfelt gratitude. Let me also ask, from my heart, that you remember to take care of your own health as you continue your activities. II. In addition, in the aftermath of this earthquake disaster, almost all of the countries of the world expressed words of heartfelt sympathy, and offers of assistance were received from 70 countries, regions and international organizations, as well as from many non-governmental organizations (NGO) and private-sector individuals. I would like to take this occasion to once again express my feelings of heartfelt gratitude to all those individuals who were involved in the many countries around the world. At the same time, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the tremendous outflow of assistance and encouragement which has come from all parts of our country in what amounts to a true citizen's movement. The Response Thus Far I. In the aftermath of this earthquake, the Government immediately established, on the very day that the earthquake occurred, an Extraordinary Disaster Headquarters, followed later by the establishment of the Emergency Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters, with myself as the Chief and with the participation of the entire Cabinet, and a special Minister in charge, as well as a disaster relief headquarters within the disaster areas composed primarily of responsible individuals from the related ministries and agencies. The Government came together as one, and in close coordination with the disaster areas, poured all of its might into the rescue and assistance of people in the disaster areas and for the prompt recovery of various facilities. II. Still, I am fully aware of the fact that there has been diverse criticism of the initial response taken in the aftermath of this disaster. The key to crisis control is to immediately secure appropriate information and ensure that initial operations are implemented without error. It is with humility that I listen to such criticism and, while making a straightforward review of that which should be reviewed, I intend once and for all to fundamentally revise those inept systems today. I also wish to devote my fullest efforts to creating better crisis control and disaster prevention systems. I have already launched a project team for that purpose within the Cabinet, and intend to hear their conclusion next week. In addition, I have already set myself to a review of our disaster prevention plans. III. As for specific response measures which have been taken thus far, the Government has done its utmost to provide assistance in terms of housing, medical and health care, lifeline infrastructure of utilities, transport, employment, and assistance for corporations which have been damaged. Furthermore, in order to give hope for the future to those who suffered from the earthquake, I intend to make my utmost efforts to indicate, in as specific a manner as I can, what the outlook is for future recovery and reconstruction. In particular, in the implementation of assistance measures, I have repeatedly given instructions through the Disaster Relief Countermeasures Headquarters and other organizations for a careful and warm response to be made, giving priority with heartfelt consideration to those people who are vulnerable to this disaster, such as senior citizens, people with disabilities and those with responsibility for infants. However, I am concerned that there might be some matters on which I have been unable to meet the individual expectations of all, and some points where we have been lacking in our response. I hope that, if there are any matters which you have particularly noticed or any matters on which you have an opinion, you will convey those without hesitation. For the time being, as a top-priority issue, I am working on the supply of housing so that the people whose lives have been torn apart by this disaster can begin to lead calm and normal lives again as soon as possible. Toward that end, by the end of March, we are planning to construct 30,000 units of urgent temporary housing, and the orders for all of those units have been completed as of today. In some cases, some of these units have already been occupied. Furthermore, just a little while ago, Governor Toshitami Kaihara of Hyogo Prefecture requested, for the interim, an additional 10,000 units, and I have decided to respond promptly to that. Furthermore, we face the issue of disposing of rubble and debris on a scale equal to seven times that which would fit in Tokyo Dome. Since achieving this is an extremely important first step in the process of recovery and reconstruction, I have taken unprecedentedly sweeping measures, including processing the possessions of individual citizens and small and medium enterprises, covering the entire expense with public fees. In order to dispose of this rubble and to transport building materials for urgent temporary housing units, it is important for us to secure the flow of traffic on roads. By giving priority to the use of the vehicles necessary for such recovery and reconstruction processes, although I am afraid that we are causing some inconvenience, I must ask for the cooperation of everyone in refraining, as much as possible, from using general passenger automobiles in the areas affected by the disaster. Future Recovery and Reconstruction Measures I. In this way, I believe that we have been implementing emergency measures of urgent necessity, one after another. >From now on, as we strive to further enhance the relief measures, we must bear in mind the goal of creating cities which will be able to withstand disasters as we take a comprehensive approach and pour all of our efforts into the recovery and reconstruction measures. In the formulation of the reconstruction plan, and in the building of new cities, the local governments, including the prefectural, municipal and town governments, play the primary role. However, the central Government will provide the fullest assistance possible while maintaining full coordination with these local governments, and create a powerful structure to fully implement those measures which should be undertaken as the responsibility of the nation. Toward that end, specifically, I intend to establish as soon as possible a Hanshin/Awaji Reconstruction Headquarters, which, acting as the entire Cabinet, will comprehensively coordinate the approaches. I will serve as the Chief of this Headquarters, and its members shall consist of all of the members of the Cabinet, and under a framework of political leadership, the necessary measures shall be forcefully and efficiently implemented. Work is currently underway toward a Cabinet Decision on the relevant legislative aspects for the establishment of such a Headquarters by the middle of February, and in this I earnestly ask for the cooperation of all of the members of the Diet. Furthermore, in order to gather broad and expert opinions on the reconstruction process, at tomorrow's meeting of the Cabinet, we will decide on the necessary ordinances and regulations for the prompt establishment of a Reconstruction Committee composed of several learned individuals, so that they can gather and consider the matter promptly. The Government is determined to act principally through these organizations, speedily and with unity, for the recovery and reconstruction of the disaster area. II. Next, I would like to mention the special legislative actions necessary for advancing recovery and reconstruction. In addition to the establishment of the Reconstruction Headquarters which I have described above: as a special exemption designed to advance, in a planned manner, the creation of finer cities, I am considering special measures to reduce the tax obligations of those who have suffered from this disaster, and to create special cases for subsidies and loans necessary to deal with the recovery from this disaster. Both of these are measures which are essential for the creation of a foundation for recovery in the disaster areas and for rebuilding the lives of the people there. Therefore, in order to compile each of these proposals into legislative bills as soon as possible, I am promptly expediting the necessary work. As soon as the preparations have been completed, I would like to request the consideration of the Diet on these bills. III. Toward the recovery and reconstruction of the damage from this earthquake, I intend to do my utmost in terms of the fiscal sector, as well. I am currently making efforts for a sincere approach to drafting the second supplementary budget for FY1994, including all budgetary allocations necessary for the interim to deal with disaster recovery operations taking place during the current fiscal year, including urgent temporary housing units, road repair and harbor repair, as well as the disposal of rubble and debris. Although this is a difficult process being implemented in a limited amount of time, I am making efforts so that we can somehow submit this second supplementary budget to the National Diet for consideration by 24 February. I would like to ask for the cooperation of all of the members of the Diet so that this bill can be promptly and smoothly enacted as law. IV. Next, regarding taxes as well, I have decided to take special measures to give consideration to all of the taxpayers of the disaster area. Specifically, in addition to promptly implementing measures to extend the deadline for the submission of individual final tax returns, I will take measures to allow for the reduction or exemption of FY1994 income taxes and residents' taxes relevant to damage that occurred as a result of this earthquake disaster. As I am sure that all of the individuals and corporations which have suffered damage from this disaster have their own individual needs and concerns, the Government will make efforts to respond appropriately to them, and I shall have the responsible officials at tax offices respond to requests for consultations from the people who have suffered from this disaster, bearing in mind the perspective of the taxpayer. V. Furthermore, the Government will do whatever it can in terms of the financial and taxation systems in order to assist corporations which were damaged in this earthquake in their recovery. In particular, the recovery of small and medium enterprises is a vital key for reconstruction. Therefore, the Government will, for the interim, respond to the capital needs necessary to meet salary payments and inventory costs. Furthermore, through coordination with local governments and the use of government-affiliated small and medium enterprise lending institutions, I have decided to establish a credit guarantee system under which it will be possible to borrow money without collateral or a guarantor at the low actual interest rate of 2.5%, which is lower than at the time of disasters in the past. Through new kinds of cooperation among the prefecture, cities and central Government, we also hope for further decreases in interest rates in the lending system. In addition to these, special exemptions to the taxation system will be applied, and the Government will comprehensively implement carefully designed measures, beginning with the holding of management consultations to respond to the individual problems and questions of small and medium enterprise owners. VI. Employment measures are some of the most important issues for ensuring the recovery of those affected by this disaster. Specifically, in order to ensure corporate employment and to secure jobs for new graduates, subsidy systems and other means will be used to the fullest extent possible. VII. In addition to the various measures I have outlined above, I will devote my fullest efforts to promoting various measures necessary for recovery and reconstruction at all levels, including education, security and transportation measures. Furthermore, bearing in mind the basic policy of the nation, the Government will respond to the requests of local governments in the disaster area as much as possible. The Government will also take a positive response to those measures that will be recommended by the Reconstruction Headquarters and by the Reconstruction Committee. I would like to take this opportunity now to renew my determination for reconstruction in the affected area, once again stating clearly that the international meetings for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, scheduled to be held in November 1995, shall be held in Osaka as planned. Conclusion I believe that, as long as hope is not lost, it is possible to overcome any difficulty. For that reason, I ask that all of the people who have suffered through this disaster maintain their hope and build a new future for themselves. The Government, too, hand in hand with the local prefectures and cities, will make its fullest efforts and spare no means available to it in assisting that effort. Furthermore, given that the areas affected by this disaster are essential economic and transport centers, the influence of this earthquake is still spreading in various ways throughout the lives and economic activities of all of the people of Japan. As such, in addressing the people of Japan, I sincerely ask for your continued cooperation and assistance as we strive for reconstruction and recovery as urgent tasks facing our nation as a whole. In closing, I must say that I believe that the very future of our nation depends on how we reflect on this great tragedy, what lessons we learn as we overcome it, and what kind of future we create. In that sense, however severe the trial is, I believe that the only way to pay our respects to the many unfortunate victims who died in this disaster, and to those whose lives were torn asunder by it, is to open the way to a new future, together with all of our fellow Japanese.