Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 232 (April 27 - May 4, 2006)
* Combined issue due to the Japanese "Golden Week" holiday.
Next issue will be delivered on May 11, 2006.
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
It has been exactly five years yesterday since my inauguration as Prime Minister in April 2001. From the day I took office, I have spent every day thinking about how I can discharge my responsibilities as Prime Minister and have devoted myself wholeheartedly to my job. Five years had passed before I knew it, and that is my honest feeling.
During those years, I received harsh criticisms, warm words of encouragement, and strong support from many people including the readers of this e-mail magazine, and because of that I have striven to perform my functions to the best of my ability up to the present day.
The Japanese economy had been stagnating when I took office with a minus 0.8 percent real economic growth rate, but the economy has recovered to register positive growth of 2.7 percent for the real economic growth rate last year.
A major issue at the time was the disposal of non-performing loans. The non-performing loan ratio of the main banks had risen to 8.4 percent. When I actually embarked on the disposal of non-performing loans, criticisms were voiced on either side. Some criticized that this would further increase the number of bankruptcies and raise the unemployment rate, while others warned that the government was too slow, that it should not fear bankruptcies and pick up the pace for the sake of Japan's future even if the number unemployed rise temporarily.
In the end, the non-performing loan ratio achieved the target 4 percent range and has now gone beyond the target, declining to the 2 percent range. You can begin to see the growing motivation in the economy and in business activities. Business performance has improved and so has tax revenue.
The unemployment rate had peaked to 5.5 percent at one time, and there were speculations that if the trend continues the unemployment rate would be in the double digits. Contrary to speculations, however, the unemployment rate has gone down to 4.1 percent recently rather than increasing; the number unemployed has been decreasing and the number employed has been rising. So too has the number of job openings.
Nevertheless, there are still mismatches between job seekers and employers. Some industries are short-handed while there are still far more people who cannot find jobs. How to correct these mismatches is also one of our critical challenges from here on.
Although there was a time when Japan was swept by pessimism, the driving spirit of "If you do it, it will happen" has finally taken on. The Koizumi Cabinet's upcoming task is to ensure that these bright signs are turned into tangible results.
Concurrently, it is also essential to address the global concerns of global warming and environmental protection. Since my inauguration, I have made it an important policy issue to "achieve both environmental protection and economic development" and have been taking steps in this direction. Moreover, it is science and technology that hold the key to achieving the dual goals. While the budgets for most items have been reduced from the levels of last fiscal year, only the science and technology budget and social security expenditure have seen theirs rise.
Recently, I frequently hear discussions about disparities. Disparities exist in any era and in any country. At one time, it was often criticized that Japan had false equality. If all people are treated the same regardless of their efforts, we would end up with false equality. Is it not true that a society in which each and every individual can exert their talent and skills and in which their efforts are rewarded is desired in any country of the world?
I believe a society's vitality is founded on able people who strive to further expand their talent and skills and exhibit their abilities.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. In sports or in art, peoples' abilities are wide-ranging. Furthermore, abilities are not expressed solely through schoolwork. There are many people who may have poor grades at school but exhibit outstanding and remarkable abilities in other areas.
People are characterized by their unique and distinctive qualities. Rather than an environment in which people are evaluated only on one of their many aspects, we have to provide a climate that will harness each person's characteristics, diverse backgrounds, and individuality. We need to create a climate and have a mind-set in which hard-working people will be praised for their efforts. People would not be jealous of those who are successful or stand in the way of someone's success--in fact, those who are successful will be encouraged to work harder.
At the same time, for people who cannot stand on their own, we also need to foster a climate in which able people will support them and everyone will help each other.
There is a verse in a song from the Meiji period, which also happens to be one of my favorite lines, that goes, "A friend's worries are my sorrow, my happiness is a friend's joy."
Worry about your friend's troubles and worries as your own, and your friends will be delighted by your joys and happiness. It is a way of life in which people help and support each other.
Applaud the motivation and accomplishments of other people. Lend a hand to those who absolutely cannot get themselves out of their difficulties. I think this is what all of us need to do, be it individuals, companies, or the nation.
From April 29th, the day after tomorrow, Japan will enter the Golden Week holiday period. I will be taking advantage of it and visit Ethiopia and Ghana in Africa before heading to Sweden in Northern Europe. I hope all the readers will have a fulfilling holiday season whether they are working, studying, or resting and going out on excursions.
- Japan-Austria and Japan-EU Summit Meetings (April 24, 2006)
- Green Feather Campaign (April 21, 2006)
- Japan-Latvia Summit Meeting (April 20, 2006)
- Prime Minister Observes the Science Museum (April 20, 2006)
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