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Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.21 (March 5, 2009)

"A letter from a young girl"
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Taro AsoProfile Japanese

The other day, I received a letter from a girl in the fifth grade of elementary school. In this letter, which she had carefully written in pencil, she offered me a fifth-grader's encouragement to "keep it up," while also expressing her strong concern over pandemic influenza. She proposed that the government halt the provision of a fixed-sum stipend and instead use the money on countermeasures against pandemic influenza.

Even though this girl is still in elementary school, she is thinking about society as a whole. I found this extremely moving and I was very impressed. The letter reaffirmed my determination to overcome our present difficulties by all possible means and to build a vibrant nation, for the sake of our children, the next generation who will move Japan forward.

It also reaffirmed for me how important it is for the government to clearly explain to the people the contents of the supplementary budgets and other policies in an even more comprehensible manner.

I sent the girl the following reply.

"Thank you very much for your letter. I really appreciate your valuable comments.

"As you wrote in your letter, Japan is now in the middle of an economic recession. We must get out of this situation as soon as possible. The government understands this and so we put our heads together and decided to carry out a package of measures on a total scale of 75 trillion yen.

"Among these measures, we are of course including countermeasures against pandemic influenza, which you expressed concern over. Also, we are increasing the amount of benefits paid to parents when babies are born, and reducing highway tolls.

"A fixed-sum stipend is one of the measures included in the package. Two trillion yen out of the 75 trillion yen will be used to pay for the fixed-sum stipend.

"This is the sort of measure carried out in countries around the world when their economies are doing badly. In this measure, tax money is given back equally to the people, for them to use effectively. That means the stipend is a measure that allows each one of the people to play a part in reviving business activity. Once officially approved by the Diet, everybody will receive the fixed-sum stipend.

"Please make good use of your stipend after talking with your mom and dad. A girl I know told me that she wanted to use her stipend to buy an electronic dictionary.

"You are a wonderful person who thinks deeply about the country. Please keep studying hard and make your dreams come true. I was very happy to receive your encouragement, and I promise you that I will continue to do my best."

This was what I said in the letter I wrote back to her.

Originally, the fixed-sum stipend had two purposes: livelihood support and economic stimulation. At first, livelihood support was the main purpose. This was because, among other considerations, the price of gasoline had risen at that time to more than 185 yen per liter, following the surge in the price of crude oil.

The main purpose of the stipend being livelihood support, some argued that high-income earners should not receive it. In fact, I myself thought that it would not be respectable for somebody like me to receive the stipend in such a situation.

Since then, however, the economic situation has changed significantly. There are now stronger expectations for the stipend to play a role in supporting the economy. In line with this changed situation, I too will receive a stipend and I intend to use it immediately. I hope the stipend will lead to an expansion in consumption and, by extension, to an economic recovery.

Yesterday, the Laws related to the Second Supplementary Budget of fiscal 2008 were enacted. We are finally able to implement the second stage of the "three-stage rocket" of economic countermeasures. The menu is a varied one.

A 400 billion yen employment measures fund, intended to create new jobs in the regions, will be used to improve nursing care and catering services for the elderly and to fulfill other purposes. Fourteen maternity checkups will be provided without charge. Highway tolls will be reduced. A maximum level of insurance and credit for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises will be expanded to improve their cash flow. We will not be restricted to merely handing out the fixed-sum stipend. We must draw on all means at our disposal.

The early passage and execution of budgets will constitute the best possible economic countermeasures. This is what I have been saying since I assumed the office of Prime Minister. I will make my utmost efforts to ensure the enactment of the fiscal 2009 budget and related bills, the third stage of the rocket, within the current fiscal year.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Taro Aso
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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