Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.36 (June 19, 2008) ============================================================
"Sharing the standpoint of the people. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
Yesterday, I visited the area severely stricken by the Iwate-Miyagi Inland Earthquake.
I saw the aftermath of a landslide that cut a swath through the landscape just as if the mountains had moved, and a lake that formed where the earth and sand had dammed up a river. I saw Komanoyu Onsen inn buried under a mudslide, a large bridge that had collapsed, and roads blocked by the debris of landslides. Witnessing the damage from the air brought home to me once again the savage fury of this earthquake.
The Government swung into action immediately after the earthquake struck, working in cooperation with the local authorities. No efforts were spared, with absolute priority given to saving lives. Even so, there have been 11 fatalities so far. It grieves me deeply to think that we were unable to do anything to save any of the 11 souls who perished. My thoughts are with the bereaved, who have suffered such a harrowing loss, and my prayers are with the departed.
There are still more than 10 people unaccounted for, and with five days having passed since the earthquake struck, there must be no time lost in rescuing them. I have given instructions for the full mobilization of the police, the fire department, the Self-Defense Forces, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and other organizations to carry out a search in cooperation with the relevant prefectural and municipal authorities.
In the stricken area, I visited evacuation centers in Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture, and Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. There I met with people who had suffered damage from the earthquake, and listened to what they had to say.
"I can't sleep at night because of the aftershocks."
Their words revealed vividly the dreadful anxiety they feel when the aftershocks occur one after another, awakening memories of the initial earthquake.
Many people said, "I want to go back home." The floor of the evacuation center is hard and uncomfortable. The mornings are chilly but the daytime is hot and humid. Living under such harsh conditions in the unfamiliar surroundings of the evacuation center is taking a huge toll, both physical and mental, on the evacuees.
The Government will join together with the prefectural and municipal authorities to restore essential utilities and residential roads as soon as possible, so that the victims of the disaster are able to return to normal life without delay.
Last Friday, the Council for Promoting Consumer Policy compiled their discussions into a report.
In line with the report and the commitment I made, I will establish an Agency for Consumer Affairs. This will provide a single, centralized point of contact for the consumers, rather than the maze of uncoordinated, compartmentalized ministries and agencies, so that the people will be able to enquire about any problem they may have without feeling at a loss as to where to go. I intend to create an organization in which top priority is accorded to convenience and user-friendliness for the consumers.
Needless to say, I will ensure that the organization is an efficient one. Moreover, where laws and jurisdiction have been transferred from ministries, personnel and budgetary allocations will be shifted away accordingly, so that the establishment of the new agency will not result in bloated government.
I will also enhance the operations of the consumer centers, which provide services to the people in respective local communities and with which the people feel more familiar, from the perspective of convenience and user-friendliness for each one of the consumers.
The Agency for Consumer Affairs will drive the complete shift toward an administration that shares the standpoint of the people.
We are currently getting down to the various tasks in preparation for the new agency's opening during the coming fiscal year. The Diet is to deliberate the bills pertaining to the establishment of the new agency. The path to its establishment is, at last, open before us.
I am determined to make the very fullest efforts, with the people's understanding and cooperation, to see to it that the new organization will act in the best interests of the consumers.
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