Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.2 (October 16, 2008) ================================================================
"Focusing on policy"
Focusing on policy A food-poisoning incident has occurred involving Chinese-made frozen haricot beans. I would like to express my heartfelt sympathies to all those affected by the incident.
Anxiety over food safety has risen higher than ever before. Our first priority must be to prevent the damage from spreading any further and to investigate the facts. At the same time, we will tackle the task of ensuring the safety of imported foods, such as by strengthening the quarantine system.
Last Sunday, I visited some small and medium-sized companies in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
At a factory for precision machining of metal, I was surprised by what I saw of the techniques of the craftsmen who undertook grinding processes with micron-order accuracy.
They were absorbed in their work, and did not even notice me when I talked to them. Once again, I realized that it is craftsmen such as these who sustain our nation's micro-, small and medium-sized companies, and I felt proud of them.
At a factory producing the cake known as Baumkuchen, I wore a white gown, cap, and mask, and performed the hand washing and alcohol sterilization procedure, experiencing myself the uncompromising approach of Japanese businesses toward ensuring food safety, which is a growing concern among consumers.
Meanwhile, I heard workers voice their pressing worries about the recent rises in the prices of raw materials and fuel and about financing in the current economic situation, among other matters. I will unfailingly respond to these anxieties and do my very best to help out micro-, small and medium-sized companies.
These past two weeks, stock markets and foreign exchange markets have been volatile due to the influence of the financial crisis gripping the United States and Europe. In Japan, the Nikkei stock average fell to almost 8,000 at one point, while the appreciation of the yen is continuing.
In advance of the meeting of the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held last weekend, I instructed Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa to inform the gathering about Japan's experience of stabilizing its financial markets through injections of capital by the Government, at the time when Japanese financial institutions were suffering from the effects of non-performing loans. I asked him to urge the participants to mount a fundamental response. Following my instructions, Finance Minister Nakagawa took a leading role in the discussions and the G-7 succeeded in issuing a clear message.
Some European countries have already started to inject public funds into financial institutions. The United States is also taking a big step toward an injection of public funds. I believe these responses stem from the studies of Japan's experience.
Japanese financial markets are the most stable among the world's financial systems, but even so, we will take steps to minimize the impact of the financial crisis on the real economy through coordination with other nations and by making use of every possible policy instrument. At the end of last week, I issued the instruction to ease, for the rest of the year, limits on corporate stock buy-backs. This measure was implemented immediately at the start of this week.
The Diet deliberations on the supplementary budget will move into their final stage today. Using the supplementary budget, I will quickly carry out the tasks at hand, including measures to cope with rising prices, and bolstering credit enhancement to help stabilize the management of small and medium-sized companies, both of which are stipulated in the Comprehensive Immediate Policy Package.
Since August, when the policy package was formulated, the international financial situation has entered a new and severe stage marked by such developments as the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. We will respond steadily and quickly to these drastic changes in the situation.
As events remain poised on a knife-edge, more than anything else I would like to focus on materializing and implementing each item of policy in turn.
I welcome your thoughts, and your opinions about what you have noticed, amid the substantially changing situation. Please send us an e-mail. In the course of formulating and implementing policy, I will take your voices into account.
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