Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.14 (January 17, 2008) ============================================================
"Observing the workplace. Speaking with the people. This is
I feel profoundly sorry that people have been put to all the trouble of gathering together all the necessary paperwork and then going to a social insurance office time and time again.
I gained a fuller understanding of the fact that the work of confirming all the pension records is a labor-intensive task. All the people coming to the office for consultations have very different situations: some individuals' records involve a certain period of time when they lived overseas, and others require verification of data from several decades ago. Accordingly, staff at the office deal with every single consultation by making inquiries and sending out requests for data to various different places.
There is, however, no question of giving up the task just because it happens to be particularly tough. In order to restore the people's trust in the pension system, we have to persevere through to the very end, seeing things from the point of view of every individual contributor, no matter how much time and effort it may require.
The Government began the Pension Special Notification Service last month, and all pension recipients and contributors will be notified by October of this year.
If you have any questions at all about the information therein, do please ask. If everything is in order, please send off the enclosed postcard. We are relying on everyone's cooperation to carry out the task of confirming the records. I ask for everyone's understanding in this regard, and request that you take the time to look over the information.
On our part, the Government will build a robust system for the work of confirming pension records and will take all possible measures, including increasing the level of staffing, to ensure that there is no crowding or confusion at the offices where people make their inquires about their pension records.
The law ensuring uniform compensation for all those who contracted hepatitis through blood products was passed in the Diet on Friday of last week. Following that, on Tuesday, the Government and the plaintiffs group agreed to a settlement, and I met with over 60 of the people who had been infected with the disease.
The people smiled cheerfully as I shook hands with each of them, and one broke down in tears while saying: "At last I can concentrate on fighting the disease." The lawsuit was filed some five years ago: these words brought home to me the pain and anguish that these people have endured.
It is the duty of the Government to protect the people's lives, and yet, the Government had not acted from the viewpoint of those who contracted the disease; furthermore, through its inaction, it had allowed the number of victims to increase. As the head of the administration, I apologize, without reservation, for the Government's failings.
We must make efforts to ensure that this situation never occurs again, and in particular, there must be a change in mindset, so that those in the administration share the standpoint of the people. Also, I intend to take firm action over comprehensive measures relating to hepatitis, such as provision of medical expenses aid.
The last extraordinary session of the Diet extended to a full 128 days, and the situation was such that the Houses were controlled by different political parties. Even so, a total of 26 laws were passed, including the law ensuring uniform compensation for all those who contracted hepatitis through blood products.
I believe this is a result of the opposition parties appreciating, to a certain degree, the sense of crisis: divisions in the Diet must not be allowed to have a serious impact on the people's lives, nor on the nation's diplomacy.
The ordinary Diet session will commence tomorrow. First will come the deliberations on the budget for the next fiscal year and budget-related bills. These really are matters that have a direct impact on the lives of the people, and any delay in the enactment of these bills could lead to a shortfall in revenue, resulting in some local governments suffering an excessive burden in their social security and education budgets. This would indeed be a harsh blow to the everyday lives of the people.
I firmly believe that the only way to prevent this situation is to explain the Government's policy as clearly as possible in order to obtain the understanding of the opposition parties and, above all, the understanding of the Japanese people, while steadily moving forward one step at a time.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
- Prime Minister's Week in Review (Dec. 24, 2007 to Jan. 6, 2008)
- Prime Minister Fukuda Visits China (Dec. 27 to 30, 2007)
- Prime Minister Meets with the Nationwide Plaintiffs Group
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