Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.21 (March 6, 2008) ============================================================
"Sharing the fruits of economic growth. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
Prices have indeed been rising since last year, affecting a wide range of foodstuffs and daily necessities, from bread and cooking oil to tissue paper. Some snack foods now have less in the bag.
Among the comments I receive from the readers of the e-mail magazine, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number that voice concerns about the rising cost of living.
I am quite sure that many people share this concern while they scrimp and save, looking to economize by purchasing something for even just one yen less.
These price increases are to some extent unavoidable, given the steep price rises around the world for crude oil and grain, which Japan relies on other countries to supply. Yet, the Government will remain vigilant so as to ensure that there are no unscrupulous acts that take advantage of this situation, such as an increase in the price of an item by an unjustifiable amount.
Price rises would be inconsequential if salaries increased at a faster pace. The average salary, however, has either remained at the same level or decreased for the past nine years in a row, which has increased the strain on household finances.
The overall Japanese economy, buoyed by strong export performance and other factors, has kept on growing over the past few years. In the corporate sector, the non-performing loans and other detrimental legacies of the bubble economy have finally been laid to rest. In fact, some businesses, especially large corporations, are generating profits exceeding levels seen during the bubble years, and are enjoying record highs.
This upbeat economic climate is the fruit of various structural reforms, and it could never have come about without the efforts of the Japanese people to endure the pain of the reforms.
That is precisely the reason why I firmly believe that the time has come to share the fruits of the reforms with the people and households in the form of higher wages.
This is the season of the labor unions' annual round of wage bargaining. Talks between management and the unions are underway over appropriate levels for salaries and other working conditions.
Higher earnings result in greater consumption, boosting the overall economy. For businesses, this can lead to greater profits. Businesses and households are inextricably linked. I am sure people in the business community, too, recognize the need for salary increases, and the Government is calling on business leaders to implement pay increases.
On Sunday, I visited the home of Mr. Haruo Kichisei and his son Tetsuhiro, who are still missing at sea following the accident in which an Aegis system-equipped destroyer collided with their fishing vessel. I offered my sincere apologies to their family.
Needless to say, the members of the Kichisei family are suffering tremendous grief. I was deeply touched, though, by how, even at this difficult time, they graciously expressed their gratitude to Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba and other members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force for their search for the missing men.
At the end of my visit, the members of the family gave me a letter. In it, they said that this was not a problem that would be solved by the resignation of Minister Ishiba or other officials responsible for the accident; the family called for the reform of the Self-Defense Forces in order to ensure that similar accidents will never happen again.
The Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces must reflect upon a great many points arising from this accident. In our determination to prevent an accident of this nature from happening again, I am resolved to move boldly forward with the reforms necessary to rebuild the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces so that the public can once again put their trust in them.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
- Prime Minister Fukuda Attends the Inauguration Ceremony
for the New President of the Republic of Korea
(February 24 to 25, 2008)
- Prime Minister's Week in Review (February 18 to 25, 2008)
- Council on the Global Warming Issue (March 5, 2008) and others
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