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Abe Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.39 (July 26, 2007) ============================================================

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

Prime Minister Shinzo AbeProfile Japanese

Reforms "From the Starting Point"

Hello, this is Shinzo Abe.

Ten days have passed since the earthquake that occurred off the coast of the Chuetsu region centered on Niigata Prefecture. The construction of temporary housing units has started in the stricken areas, but many people are still living in evacuation centers. Now that it is getting hotter, their difficulties must be multiplying.

The Government, in cooperation with people from many quarters, is doing its very best to facilitate a recovery from this disaster at the earliest possible date.

On July 24, the first meeting of the Council on the Comprehensive Reform of the Civil Servant System was held. Its core membership is comprised of private-sector executives and experts from academia.

There have been a series of problems, including bid-rigging scandals involving public offices and retired civil servants landing executive positions in the private sector. Given this backdrop, it is only natural that people feel mounting anger and frustration when they ponder the behavior of civil servants who are out to feather their own nests, devoting their thoughts only to the interests of specific industries.

All civil servants when they first join the Government are fired up with ambition: to work their hardest for the nation and the people. Yet why do some of them lose sight of this "starting point" as they advance in their careers? I believe that the essence of the problems with the current civil servant system lies in this question.

Under the existing system, most civil servants work only within one government agency until their retirement, except for when they have contact with industries to which they are connected through budgets or authority, and they are tied up in a rigid seniority-based system. When they retire, they often parachute into jobs in the private sector through the influence wielded by their agencies on account of their budgetary and administrative powers.

As a result, the system narrows the vision of individual civil servants, causing them to place higher priority on benefiting the interests of one segment rather than the interests of the nation and the people.

While the private sector struggles to survive in a severe operating environment, and at a time when Japan needs to win out against international competition, there is no reason why civil servants alone should be allowed to remain in such a cosseted situation. The old system must be torn down.

It was in this belief that I submitted the bills for reforming the civil servant system that were enacted in the last ordinary session of the Diet.

Intermediation by government entities for the reemployment of former staff is now prohibited. We reexamined the seniority-based personnel system tied to each organization and revised the system so that those civil servants who demonstrate their abilities and achieve real results for the nation and the people will be duly valued.

These steps, however, are just a start. We need, for example, to promote exchanges between the public and private sectors in order to free civil servants from the constraints of their organizations and vested industrial interests and to help them acquire a broader vision.

What do we need to do so that civil servants will be able to return to their starting point of serving the nation and the people? We must reexamine the civil servant system even more deeply, from its very roots.

Changing the civil servant system means changing fundamentally the way that each and every civil servant works, which will involve changes in their life plans as well, and we expect to meet intense resistance. Such resistance was also raised during the recent ordinary Diet session against a bill to eliminate the Social Insurance Agency and another designed to eliminate the practice of retired civil servants being reemployed as private sector executives.

Education rebuilding promotes the reform of school education through a return to the basic principle that education is for the sake of our children's future.

The aim of constitutional revision is to stipulate in the Constitution Japan's role as well as the values it should protect in the new era, based on the idea that a constitution embodies the vision and ideals of a nation.

Such reforms "from the starting point" will inevitably meet with strong resistance.

However, our generation has a responsibility to establish the Japan of the era when today's children will be adults -- the Japan of 50 years from now. We should never shy away from reform, regardless of how strong the resistance may be.

We have started making steady progress, step by step, on the challenge of undertaking these reforms. No matter what the situation, I am determined to fulfill my mission of keeping these reforms moving forward steadily -- without ever losing sight of the starting point.

[What's New in Government Internet TV]

- Prime Minister's Week in Review (July 9 to 16, 2007)

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- 1st Meeting of the Council on the Comprehensive Reform of the Civil Servant System (July 24, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe announced his policy to submit a basic bill for reforming the civil servant system to the next ordinary session of the Diet.

- 1st Meeting of the Strategy Council for Envisioning the Future of Food (July 17, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe said, "I ask the Council to envision a future where young people recognize agriculture as an area and industry with truly great future potential and are inspired to take it up."

[Abe Cabinet E-mail Magazine]

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General Editor: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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